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About The Characters
At the center of "Hustle & Flow” is DJay, a hustler trying to make good. Having reached the age his father was when he died, DJay is at a crossroads.

"He doesn't want to live the life of a hustler anymore,” says Terrence Howard, who plays the aspiring rapper. "DJay is like a shepherd with a flock. These girls are his family; he's the father figure, and when they're in a dark place, it's up to him to find the way out.

"‘Hustle & Flow' doesn't glorify DJay,” adds Howard, noting that the characters live a hard life, hustle-to-hustle. More to the point, the film shows a side of the life that hasn't often been seen on-screen. "It breaks DJay's heart to send these girls out to do these things. He tries to think of a better life, to keep his sanity.” When DJay is no longer able to forget the role he plays, he sets into motion a plan that affects them all.

"This kind of character is so much more interesting than the covered-in-jewels, holding-a-gold-goblet type of pimp that I've usually seen in movies, because this is a kind of classic Memphis hustler,” says Brewer. "Talking is a lot of what this guy is. And it's that gift of gab that ultimately leads to DJay's flow. He's always been pretty good at connecting the dots.”

From the very beginning, Brewer was convinced that the role should be played by Howard and not by a well-known rapper. "Terrence Howard is a man who understands DJay to the core of his being – he's always been a fantastic actor who has never really been given a shot to lead a movie himself,” says Brewer. "When you have the right person to play the part, you feel like you have a shot at making something that'll stand the test of time, because you know that you have an actor that's also thinking of that same thing. That was Terrence.”

As much as the filmmakers were convinced that Howard was the man for the role, Howard had reservations. "I was scared,” he admits. "This was someone I felt I knew. There are certain things about your life that you suppress, and when they're brought into the light, it's not an easy thing to accept. But Craig was so loyal to me – standing up for me when others wanted a rap star to play the part – that I put that aside and came to the table. I had to bring DJay to life.”

According to Howard, some of his inspiration to play the part came from his mother, who raised four children while, for a time, auditioning for parts. "She'd try and take off time for auditions, but she couldn't. She would come home disappointed; she'd pour all of that into me. I think she was like DJay, holding on to her dreams, but wondering how she was going to fulfill them.”

To play the role, Howard had to immerse himself in the world of crunk music – a genre of rap specific to the south and Memphis, Tennessee, where the film takes place. "Terrence is a singer,” says Allain, "but more of a balladeer. He had to shake that off and take on a Memphis crunk vibe.”

John Singleton adds, "I knew that Terrence could play the hustler part of DJay, but I needed to be sure that he could also rap before making such a major investment. Terrence and I flew to Memphis and I introduced him to Juicy J and Paul from Three 6 Mafia. Terrence recorded ‘Pop It for Some Paper,' which completely broke the ice. That moment was absolutely magic, because then I knew that Terrence Howard could really pull off the role of DJay.”

"Watching Terrence become DJay was really exciting,” Allain continues. "The guys in Memphis – Juicy J, Al Kapone – totally embraced him. Terrence was able to pick up the Memphis style, especially the flow – the cadence of lyric.”

"He started to rap first, getting the rhythm,” says Brewer, "and that ultimately led to his language, the rhythm, and the character.”

DJay isn't sure about his next step in life until he reconnects with Key, a middle-class recording engineer w

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