Sly, subversive rap romcom
OPENS JULY 18, CERT 12A, 109 MINS
Brown Sugar’s hip hop credentials are established at the start, as key figures from Russell Simmons to De La Soul reminisce. Former Krush Rap publisher Michael Elliot’s script then uses the music’s history to frame the relationship between Sidney (Sanaa Lathan) and Dre (Taye Diggs), from their meeting as children at an ’80s rap battle onwards. Elliot and director Rick Famuyiwa subvert expectations by creating characters who’re not only black and bourgeois (Sidney is a successful rap journalist, Dre an A&R man) but believable?a rarity in a genre used to relying on stereotyping. When Sidney and Dre start dating other people, a conventional ‘happy’ ending seems in doubt. But the sex is more funnily frank than usual as, after years of expectation, Dre gives Sidney “the most beautiful… five minutes I’ve ever had”. Mos Def and Queen Latifah are on hand as best friends, and only the music, essaying hip hop’s romantic side, disappoints in this otherwise low-key success.