When writing a review I rarely think of the basic plot; it’s usually very typical. I am usually looking for unique moments that get me emotionally invested. My favorite quote is, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” by Maya Angelou. This sums up Brown Sugar. There are many forgettable moments in the movie, but the way I felt about the music as a metaphor to falling in love… well, it was magical!
The movie opens with a split screen of a woman packing the evolution of hip hop, through images of mixed tapes (Biz Markie, Monie Love, Angie B.), pictures of Boogie Down Productions, pictures of break dancers with Kangol hats and boom boxes, and posters of Salt and Pepa and Gang Starr. The song Love of My Life by The Roots is playing in the background. The song sets the tone of the metaphors that will become the basis of the story. Throughout the movie the main characters use hip hop music as a metaphor to their experiences and relationship.
It’s all very reminiscent of my childhood. My brother, Quinton, and my sister Tamisha “Mimi” loved hip hop. Quinton carried on my mama’s tradition of playing music in the house. Sometimes when I play hip hop in the car from “back in the day,” I can see the shock on my son’s face when I rap. The lyrics are embedded into my memory, just like my childhood experiences with my brothers and sisters.
The next image is of the main characters Sidney “Sid” (Sanaa Lathan), and Andre “Dre” (Taye Diggs) as 10-year-old children. Sidney is narrating about the interviews that she conducts as an editor-in-chief of a hip hop magazine. Her first question to her interviewee is, “So, when did you fall in love with hip hop?” The scene reminds me of When Harry Met Sally. In WHMS throughout the movie they ask couples how they met and fell in love. It’s the same faces in Brown Sugar when a slew of hip-hop artists are giving real accounts of when they first fell in love with hip hop. Their faces light up as they tell us the name or location of when and/or where they were when they heard the song that hooked them. Sidney says she remembers the first day she fell in love with hip hop. It was July 18, 1984. It’s the day she heard three MCs: Dana Dane, Slick Rick, and Doug E. Fresh. Of course, this is also the day she met Andre “Dre”.
Again, the love story is a simple case of best friends falling love. But delivered with metaphors, great acting, a bomb-ass soundtrack, and beautiful people… well, it’s sweet! The movie goes through the story of Sid and Dre realizing they have always been in love with hip hop openly, while loving each other secretly. After many years in separate states, Sidney relocates closer to Dre because of a promotion. It is important to bring in Francine (Queen Latifah), who is Sidney’s best friend. Francine is steadfast in her belief that Sid and Dre should be together. Unfortunately, on the night Sidney gets into town Dre proposes marriage to his girlfriend Reese (Nicole Ari Parker).
The subtle rivalry between Sidney and Reese starts at Reese’s bridal shower. The guests play a game, “Who knows Dre?” Sid is the only one that can answer the questions (thoroughly). The subtle tolerance turns into a gym argument where Reese accuses Sidney of being in love with Dre, then tells Sidney that she has to beg for the secrets Dre freely gives to Sidney. The movie heats up when Dre and Sid share their first kiss on the night of Dre’s bachelor party. Dre quits his job as a A&R exec for a record company, then goes to Sid for support. The kiss starts off as a comfort peck but turns quickly into a sexy tongue lashing. They are both left shocked and confused. Ignoring all the warnings of that kiss, Dre marries Reese the following day. My favorite moment is when Francine finds out about the kiss during the wedding ceremony. She gets hyped and tells Sid, “…she’s about to marry your man,” & “That’s your man, say somethin’.” You gotta love girlfriends.
The movie follows the traditional pattern of characters moving forward. Dre is married and Sid meets Kilby, an NBA star who is fiiine as hell! Dre decides to start his own business (which Sid invests in), and Dre signs Christopher (Mos Def). Mos Def is the kind of hip-hop artist that reminds Dre of true hip hop. Dre starts to have marital problems when he realizes that he is in love with Sid. Kelby and Sid become engaged. It is the proposal that brings out Dre’s jealousy and is a catalyst for the demise of his marriage. As time goes by, Sid and Dre continue to fall further in love with each other while committed to others. One night Sid and Dre bust Reese having an affair, which leads to a passionate love-making session between the two of them. Instead of bringing them together, they are torn apart. It’s not until Sid is giving an on-the-air interview about her new book, I Used To Love HIM, that they reconnect. Although the book is based on her love of hip hop, it is truly a chronicle of her love affair with Dre. Dre rushes to the radio station and declares his love. The boy gets the girl. There is something so endearing and sweet about falling in love with someone who you already love.
Every time I fell in love I was conscious of the music in the background of my life. My first kiss was during Eric B. & Rakim’s Paid in Full era, my first time falling deeply in love was during Public Enemy’s Fear of the Black Planet, when I made love for the first time it was when Dr. Dre’s The Chronic dropped, and when I had my first child was during 2Pac’s Me Against the World era. This movie is going to be a hit for anyone that loves music. Music keeps us connected to experiences and memories, but most of all it keeps us connected to the feelings associated with the experiences and memories. Music is even more of a time capsule than a picture.
Brown Sugar has just the right amount of sweetness!
This review made me feel sentimental, so I added a few fun things:
I’m dedicating a playlist to my brother Quinton and my sister Tamisha (Mimi). This list reminds me of us in the ’90s when Quinton and Hemdee were going to be the World’s Greatest Rappers, and Mimi and I were going to be their back-up Dancing Queens. I love you both…dearly.
- The Show – Doug E. Fresh
- I Know You Got Soul – Eric B. and Rakim
- Scenario – A Tribe Called Quest
- Award Tour – A Tribe Called Quest
- La Schmoove – Fu Schnickens
- Rebirth of Slick – Digable Planets
- Me, Myself, and I – De La Soul
- Don’t Sweat the Technique – Eric B. and Rakim
- People Everyday – Arrested Development
- Tennessee – Arrested Development
- Let Me Clear My Throat – DJ Kool
If you have Spotify, click here to listen to the playlist!
- Reese (Nicole Parker), is married to Kelby (Boris Kodjoe)
- Sanaa Lathan is in 3 of our 5 reviews
- Taye Diggs was a back up dancer for Janet Jackson
- Queen Latifah was originally a Rapper, but now she is an Actress, Talk Show Host, and Jazz singer.