By Voleine Amilcar
“When did you fall in love with hip-hop?” This is a question hip-hop music editor Sidney (Sanaa Nathan) asks everyone she interviews in “Brown Sugar.”
But as much as Sidney rotates this question, there’s no mistaking when she fell.
It was 1984, when she met her best friend Dre while witnessing the birth of hip-hop on a New York street corner as a kid.
It was the magic of that moment and their love for the music that provided the backdrop for their friendship and their futures-hers as a leading hip-hop music journalist, his as a moneymaking record-company executive.
At first glance “Brown Sugar” can be taken as a movie solely about the love of hip-hop music.
After all, the film opens with a litany of who’s who in the hip-hop world, the ones who pioneered the domination and mainstreaming of hip-hop.
Cameos by hip-hop and R&B performers, including Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, Jermaine Dupri, Russell Simmons, Beanie Sigel and Common, add to the mix.
But don’t get it mistaken; “Brown Sugar” is a love story, a love that was shaped by Sidney and Dre’s love for hip-hop.
Though calculable at times, it does not bore but rather makes you feel like you’re among friends.
You will start rooting for Sidney when, in an attempt to get over Dre’s shocking marriage announcement to Reese (Nicole Ari Parker), she hooks up with NBA star Kelby, played by the hunky Boris Kodjoe.
And you’ll want to slap Reese, Dre’s new wife, when she’s caught in a compromising position with another man.
Even though Dre falters by taking a long time to realize that Sidney is the real “Brown Sugar,” you’ll be patient with him, giving him time to soak in his stupidity.
And when it seems that Sidney is giving up on their love, you’ll say to the screen, “that’s alright girl, he’ll come around.”
Dre and Sidney’s characters are what keep the movie afloat.
Together they have clout and charisma, lighting up the screen with their interactions; however, don’t sleep on the supporting cast.
Queen Latifah shines as Sidney’s no-nonsense cousin, Francine, and rapper Mos Def delivers a thoughtful yet comical supporting performance as a talented M.C. who refuses to succumb to the mainstreaming of his skills.
For major comic relief, lookout for the wanna-be hip-hop duo, Ren (Erik Weiner) and Ten (Reggie Wyns).
Proclaiming themselves as the Hip-Hop Dalmatians their song, “The Ho Is Mine,” is both the comedic highlight of the film and a poignant statement about the state of mainstream hip-hop music.
Director Rick Famuyiwa (“The Wood”) adds a freshness to the old and tried story line of “can a man and a woman be friends,” mixing moments of familiarity with the new.
Take the scene where Dre discovers his new wife with another man at a restaurant.
This is not surprising because there were enough hints to suggest Dre neglected her, but what is surprising is the hilarity in which Dre handles the situation. Instead of losing his cool, with Sidney as his sidekick, he joins the two lovebirds and orders a bottle of champagne to celebrate his divorce.
“Brown Sugar” is definitely worth your time.
It’s a love story, a comedy and most importantly, it’s a film with an all black cast, not shooting each other or engaged in any illegal activity.