- Directors: Craig Brewer
- Writers: Craig Brewer
- Genres: Crime, Drama, Music
- Actors: Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning, Taraji P Henson, Elise Neal, Isaac Hayes, with D J Qualls, and Ludacris, as Skinny Black
DJay is dissatisfied with his life. After acquiring a keyboard and reacquainting himself with an old friend from school, Key, who has become a sound technician, DJay decides to try making hip hop songs. Key and his sound-mixer friend Shelby help DJay put together several “flow” songs. While DJay quickly proves to have a real talent for lyrics, in which he expresses the frustrations of a small-time hustler struggling to survive, it is his first fixed-length song, done at the urging of these friends, which most obviously has the chance of becoming a hit and getting local radio play.
The group experiences many setbacks throughout the creative process. DJay must hustle those around him in order to procure proper equipment and recording time, and Key’s relationship with his wife becomes strained. DJay throws out one of his prostitutes for ridiculing his art. DJay’s pregnant prostitute Shug joins in the creative process, singing hooks, and the group eventually records several fixed-length tracks, including “Whoop That Trick” and their primary single “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”. DJay begins to fall in love with Shug after their record is complete and he gives her a long passionate kiss before leaving to attend Skinny Black’s party.
DJay is arrested, but in prison he learns that his prostitute Nola has hustled the local radio disc jockeys into playing his songs, which have become local hits. The end of the film, in a bit of irony, sees a duo of prison guards who have their own rap group asking DJay to listen to their demo, much as DJay had approached Skinny Black. After the guards request DJay to listen to the demo, he accepts their tape and responds with the following: “You know what they say, everybody gotta have a dream,” which was the slogan for the film.