Sidney Shaw (Sanaa Lathan) and Dre Ellis (Taye Diggs) have been best friends since "back in the day". Days when it was safe to gather in groups of kids and listen to local artists freestyle their rhymes. Days when hip-hop was forging ahead and grabbing a foot hold in American music. I'm talking about the late 70s and early 80s when hip-hop
exploded on to the scene. Days before gangsta rap and misogynistic lyrics were the norm. A time when you could bring a rap cassette/record into your mama's house and not have to worry about what was on it. You knew what was on it - "a lemon to lime - a lime to lemon" and "Hot butter on a breakfast toast" None of that stuff about shooting folks and
sexing women. This is the music Sid and Dre bonded over and it became the lynch pin of their friendship and existence. Dre grows up to become a talent agent for the hip-hop arm of a record label and Sid becomes a nationally renowned hip-hop critic and magazine editor.
Their relationship has always been one of that like a brother and sister until Dre falls in love. On some level Sid is convinced that Reese (Nicole Ari Parker) is not the right woman for Dre and Sid's best friend, Francine (Queen Latifah) concurs - loudly. Yet, Sid is in denial about her feelings for Dre and does nothing. Sid is not the only one in denial. Dre has feelings for Sid as well, feelings that intensify when his wife fails to fully understand what hip-hop means to him and feelings that are complicated when Sid falls in love with a pro- basketball player.
But they are fooling themselves if they think continue to deny their feelings for each other, those feelings are clear to everyone but them. When are they going to just give in and let nature take its course?
The real stars of this story were the music and the narrative and there in lies the problem. This movie couldn't decide if it wanted to be a romantic comedy or a documentary on hip-hop. Either one would have been fine if it had just picked one and stuck with it. Personally, I would have preferred the documentary because the love story just didn't do it for me. It wasn't engaging at all, in fact, I was rather bored. Plus, I really appreciated the walk down the hip-hop memory lane. It was a wake up call for me because I had distance myself from hip-hop because somewhere along the line I had blurred hip-hop with gangsta rap. I no longer wanted to be a hip-hop fan because that meant I had to like all that trash (with the exception of Snoop's Doggy Style and Cube's Death Certificate) that came out from the west coast in the late 80s/ early 90s and in the process denied myself the opportunity to hear some really good music and fall back in love with the music of my youth. This movie showed me what a mistake I was making. Every artist they interviewed fell in love with hip-hop the same way I did (For me it was Rappers Delight around 1979. I was in the 4th grade) and after hearing the same artists I did. I had forgotten when and why I fell in love with hip-hop, but now I remember.
With the notable exception of Mos Def as a real "R - teest" and the music, this who movie fell flat for me. Itís shame too because I'm the first one screaming about booty call flicks and drug epics neither of which this movie is. A tighter story line and better directing and editing would have made a world of difference in my opinion. Having said that, I still encourage all involved to keep at it. They gave it the "ole college try" and I recognize that.
This is a cute little date movie and the soundtrack almost makes it worth seeing right away. Almost...
Brown Sugar needed a little more flavor.
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Copyright Kamal "The Diva" Larsuel-Ulbricht, 2002
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