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Oscar's Best: Surveying The 5 Best Original Songs by African American Artists

by Erik Luers
February 28, 2014 11:53 AM
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2005 – From Hustle & Flow: “It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp” by Paul Juicy J, Frayser Boy and DJ Paul (wrote music and lyrics)

A song that will live in infamy less for its content than for its creators' palpable joy on Oscar night, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" is a harrowing rap song that manages to be both realistic and optimistic in its depiction of people struggling to get by. The chorus has become legendary, Terrence Howard's (who performed the song) vocals representing the best character he ever played and its Oscar win a continued representation of a change in the Academy (Eminem's "Lose Yourself" had won three years earlier).

Best lyrics: "But I gotta keep my game tight, like Kobe on game night."

What is your favorite of the five? Do you agree with me that "Say You, Say Me," is the best of the bunch and that "I Just Called to Say I Love You" is the weakest? Think Pharrell has a chance at taking home the gold this Sunday?

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  • Mike | July 3, 2014 6:28 PMReply

    The Academy doesn't understand music in motion pictures period. "Happy" is a feel good song, but it was not used in the film at all. The only song that was used properly in the film was "Let It Go" from "Frozen." Disney really knows how to use music in their films that are a cengtral park of moving the story along. Other filmmakers need to learn from Disney.

  • Mr. Marin | March 2, 2014 6:44 PMReply

    I take it that 'Purple Rain' never happened. Oh.

  • Donella | February 28, 2014 4:30 PMReply

    I think Ray Parker Jr's "Ghostbusters" suffered the controversy from its similarity to Huey Lewis and the News "I Need a New Drug."

  • @IvoryJeff | February 28, 2014 3:41 PMReply

    As always, I love the opportunity to chop it up with fellow movie-lovers. Just wanted to respectfully point out a couple things in response to the comments so far.

    @ INDIENERD - This is not a list of what that the writer considers the best movie songs composed by blacks. It's a roundup of the five tunes that won the Oscar for Best Original Song.

    @ SOSGEMINI - Just looked it up and Prince won Best Original Song Score for the track Purple Rain, not When Doves Cry. I agree about the category being silly btw. Glad it's gone.


  • indienerd | February 28, 2014 12:47 PMReply

    You are mother effin' crazy to not include "When Doves Cry" or anything from the Color Purple. Shut this site down. PLEASE!

  • sosgemini | February 28, 2014 12:41 PMReply


    After number two, I just cant. :sigh:

    And what the heck was up with Prince winning for Song Score for When Doves Cry? Still don't get that category. Guess no one did hence it being eliminated. And wouldn't Ghostbusters also be a song score since the song was used throughout the film as a score theme? silly.

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