They're both approaching 30 and have found success in their different but equally demanding careers. He's a hip-hop producer/exec, and she's a magazine editor for XXL. Their relationship is defined by their mutual love of hip-hop, and for each other. His name is Dre (Taye Diggs) and her name Sidney (Sanaa Lathan).
It was three years ago that I fell in love with H.E.R. (a girl named Katie) and offered her "Brown Sugar" as a Valentine's Day gift and for her birthday (which was two weeks later). For most who fell in love with H.E.R., hip-hop started back in the '70s with DJ Kool Herc driving around the Bronx flatlands blaring the sound of a new era on his speakers. For me, I fell in love with H.E.R., hip-hop, the first time I heard "Walk This Way" by Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith, which was recorded in 1986.
Director Rick Famuyiwa has a passion for the music, and it seems to have culminated with "Brown Sugar," a film that some have called an urban version of "When Harry Met Sally" with a hip-hop beat. Sidney begins nearly every interview with the same question: How did you fall in love with hip-hop? For her, it was July 18, 1984, when she discovered a music genre with break dancing, DJing, emceeing, and graffiti tagging - the four elements of hip-hop.
It's the passion for the rhythm and the beat that brought Sidney and Dre together as children. Early in their time in college, they both considered giving it a go at romance, but Sidney decided it wouldn't be right. Her close friend Francine (Queen Latifah) warns she's turning into a Terry McMillian character. Now, as adults with careers and goals, their romance lives have taken radically different courses. Dre has become engaged to Reese (Nicole Ari Parker), who is beautiful and not some monster as movies like this would require. There is a sense of sincerity in a scene where she and Sidney confront one another about Dre.
Dre, meanwhile, who works for Millennium Records, has been assigned by his boss (Wendell Pierce), who wants MTV rotation, to produce a pair of jokesters named Ren and Ten and who call themselves the "Hip-Hop Dalmations" - "they represent that whole unity (that's 'u.n.i.t.y.') thing." Dre quits Millennium after this fiasco and decides to start his own label by first signing Chris Shawn (Mos Def), who he believes is a real artist. Dre and Sidney both realize they have to keep their feelings for one another on the down-low, especially since she is now involved with professional ballplayer Kelby Dawson (Boris Kodjoe).
"Brown Sugar" works as a pretty sweet romantic comedy that also doubles as a metaphor for the loss of dignity in hip-hop. Sid and Dre's being in love is paralleled against hip-hop's acceptance into the mainstream, and its loss of any meaningful qualities. They both feel the beat, and the passion since that day in July 1984 when they fell in love with the same thing, and its growth over the years. But despite the over-commercialization of my favorite music genre, one thing is certain:
I still love H.E.R.