On October 11, 2002 “Brown Sugar” hit theaters and became an ode to hip hop like never before.
The film, which is written by Michael Elliot and directed by Rick Famuyiwa, takes viewers on the complex love story that is hip hop and mainstream culture while also following the romance brewing between Sidney Shaw (Sanaa Lathan) and Dre Ellis (Taye Diggs). During a recent interview with aspireTV, Lathan opened up about her character being the inspiration for so many of today’s journalists (including me).
When approached with her flowers for allowing so many Black girls and women to see themselves reflected through Sidney “Syd” Shaw, Lathan said, “I love acting, I’m an entertainer, and then to hear stories that the story you told actually inspired somebody in a real way… that’s what it’s all about.”
As the culture reflects on 20 years of “Brown Sugar,” aspireTV has seven reasons that the film is one of the greatest love letters to the hip hop genre that the world has ever seen.
- The film is not only a nod to hip hop, but it runs through its history and features accounts from some of the very people who helped shape the music over the years. From Big Daddy Kane to Method Man to Common to Kool G Rap and more, the mic was passed to legends who answered the question to the film’s iconic opener… When did you fall in love with hip hop?
- Hip Hop is a metaphor to the relationship between Dre and Syd. Lathan’s character continuously describes the genre in a way that one would talk about a relationship with someone. It serves as symbolism for her love for Dre and navigating the complexities that come with falling in love with a childhood friend
- The film is inspired by a song by the Queen of Hip Hop Soul Mary J. Blige. After hearing Blige’s “Seven Days” on the radio in 1998, “Brown Sugar” writer Michael Elliot used the lyrics to draft the first act of his new script on a napkin before ultimately selling the project to 20th Century Fox for $250,000. He also originally named the film, “Seven Days.”
- It gave us the iconic line – “You are the perfect verse over a tight beat.” Although it takes a while for the characters to admit they’re madly in love, viewers can see it from the very beginning and it doesn’t get more obvious than the aforementioned line that Dre uses to describe Syd well beyond they act on their love for one another
- Two of the supporting cast happen to be hip hop royalty. Queen Latifah stars as Syd’s cousin Francine and Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, plays a taxi driver/rapper who becomes the artist that spearheads Dre’s label… it doesn’t get much sweeter than that
- The film’s title track instantly became a classic. Erykah Badu and Common’s “Brown Sugar” duet is produced by a young Kanye West
- It’s not your typical rom-com. “Brown Sugar” is told from the birthplace of hip hop in New York, but the film isn’t centered around the typical, white Manhattan like most romantic comedies during that time period. It also isn’t a fairytale. Syd and Dre are down to earth and flawed, and it’s one of those Black love stories that will forever be ingrained in the culture.