On this day in 2002, the cult classic film “Brown Sugar” debuted in theaters. The box office hit starred Sanaa Lathan and Taye Diggs, telling the story of their love of music and one another. Check out 20 fun facts about the film to celebrate its 20th anniversary inside.
We often think of D’Angelo’s 1995 hit single when we hear the words “Brown Sugar.” Fans also recall watching “Brown Sugar,” which is a beloved film in the Black community released on Oct. 11, 2002. The classic song and movie remind us of a love like no other – Black love.
In the 2002 film, Sidney (Lathan) and Dre (Diggs) can attribute their friendship and the launch of their careers to one single childhood instant … witnessing the birth of hip-hop on a New York street corner. Now some 15 years later, she is a revered music critic and he is a successful, though unfulfilled, music executive. Both come to realize that their true life passions will only be fulfilled by remembering what they learned that day on the corner.
The movie was directed by Rick Famuyiwa and written by Famuyiwa and Michael Elliot. It reached $28.3 million at the box office. Lathan and Diggs are joined by Queen Latifah, Mos Def, Nicole Ari Parker, Boris Kodjoe, Angie Martinez and Wendell Price.
Aside from the beautiful storytelling, acting and 90’s nostalgia, the music within the film was the icing on top. The soundtrack included songs from Mos Def, Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and The Roots.
“Brown Sugar” is an undeniable movie. If you have never seen the cult classic, we urge you celebrate by watching it today.
Happy 20th Anniversary, “Brown Sugar!”
Check out 20 fun facts about the movie below:
Mary J. Blige Inspired The FIlm
Screenwriter Michael Elliot heard Mary J. Blige’s “Seven Days” on the radio in 1998. Before he was on the verge of giving up on his filmmaking dreams, he wrote a lyric from the song down on a napkin: “Now what are we gonna do?” That lingering question became the end of the first act of Elliot’s new script, arriving after a kiss between two longtime friends.
A Different Film Title
Elliot sold the movie, initially titled “Seven Days” to 20th Century Fox for $250,000.
The FIlm’s Director
Rick Famuyiwa was a young director coming off his first hit film, 1999’s The Wood. The studios sought after Famuyiwa’s fresh voice and humor for the romantic comedy.
Brown Sugar was pitched to its director with a When Harry Met Sally reference.
Love Letter To Hip Hop
The entire film is a love letter to hip hop. Sidney is in the midst of writing a book titled I Used to Love Her, named after the immortal Common track, which she describes as her “love letter to hip-hop.” The movie begins with a series of interviews for the book, where she asks “When did you fall in love with Hip Hop?” She spoke with legends like Method Man, Kool G Rap, Black Thought, and Common.
Angie Martinez Cameo
Sid and Dre declare their love to each other live on hip-hop radio mainstay Hot 97’s “The Angie Martinez Show.”
The supporting cast members are just as important as the leads. He rounds out the cast with Queen Latifah, as Sidney’s cousin Francine, and Yasiin Bey (fka Mos Def), who plays a taxi driver/rapper that Dre scouts and builds his label around.
The Masterful Soundtrack
The title song was produced by a young Kanye West, featuring a soulful sample of Norman Connors’ “Invitation,” and Bey rapping smoothly from he perspective of his character. Bey contributed to the entire soundtrack in the role of producer and artist.
Why Famuyiwa Agreed to the Project
Famuyiwa once said that Brown Sugar caught his eye because he’d get to tell a story that didn’t take place in white Manhattan, where a glut of rom-coms exist.
Filming Post 9/11
Brown Sugar was one of the first films to shoot on location in New York City after 9/11. Lathan solemnly recalls filming in the months following 9/11. “I remember we were probably one of two productions in the city. You could still smell the ash,” she tells ESSENCE.
Diggs and Lathan reunite in Brown Sugar. In addition to working with Famuyiwa on The Wood, they previously played lovers in 1999’s The Best Man, which was a cornerstone of the Black rom-com boom of the late ’90s.
Queen Latifah’s Vehicle To Rom-Com Success
Queen Latifah adds a funny but grounded impression as Sidney’s no-nonsense cousin Francine. This led Elliot to write an entire rom-com for her in 2010’s Just Wright.
Reese and Kelby are played by real-life married couple Nicole Ari Parker and Boris Kodjoe.
Historic Moments In Film
Sidney Shaw was one of the first Black girl magazine editors we saw in a film.
Elliot wrote the screenplay in a month, and dropped it off at Magic Johnson Entertainment, a company run by the former NBA champion, who had a deal with Twentieth Century Fox at the time.
Sanaa Lathan Wasn’t With It
Sanaa Lathan almost didn’t do Brown Sugar. In the summer of 2000, she was set to perform in New York’s Shakespeare in the Park, a free, annual theatrical production. The play was a dream of hers and she wasn’t sure that “Brown Sugar” had a strong enough script.
But… she’s glad she did.
Lathan didn’t know the film would resonate the way it has two decades later. “You just never know when you’re working on something that’s going to resonate,” Lathan tells Essence. “Especially as an actor, you just don’t know. It’s so cool.”
Romanticizing Music & Film
Famuyiwa wanted to bring out the romanticism of a musical genre that was becoming increasingly associated with violence and excess in its mainstream commercial form.
Lines That Live On Forever
“You are the perfect verse over a tight beat,” Dre tells Sidney in the movie. That became an iconic line we all still recite today.
Making Fun of Real Musical Issues
Their take on the gimmicky rap group called Ren & Ten, the Hip-Hop Dalmatians is a poke at some of the true accounts in music. The Black and white duo aiming for “that whole unity thing,” their first single is a cover of the Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney duet “The Girl Is Mine” they’ve redubbed “The Ho Is Mine.”
The Most Iconic Scene
Dre learns his wife, Reese is having an affair towards the end of the movie. He decides to confront her at a restaurant while she’s on a date. He’s drunk, Sidney is embarrassed, Reese is mortified and her date is simply confused. Dre then orders a bottle of champagne “to celebrate … my divorce!” That scene has been replicated in Black spaces for two decades.
Happy Anniversary to the classic masterpiece that is “Brown Sugar”.