Cable network Fuse’s inaugural scripted programming effort is a series called The Hustle, which depicts a fictional up-and-coming rap duo called Brooklyn’s Finest and their team as they progress in their career from upstarts to superstars. The show’s lead characters are mostly unknown but many recognizable faces – Jadakiss, Freddie Gibbs, the hosts of NYC radio’s The Breakfast Club, to name a few – make appearances and are part of the storyline. The story revolves around Brooklyn’s Finest, their management and entourage, personal relationships and feuds between artists.
Created by Prentice Penny, who deems it “in the tone of Entourage within the hip-hop space,” The Hustle’s principal characters are Ya-Ya (Erica Dickerson), Kutta (Y’lan Noel), D (London Brown) and Rashad (Clinton Lowe). The show will premier June 19th at 11/10C on Fuse.
Following a screening of the first two episodes of the upcoming six-episode season at Creative Artists Agency offices, MIMO caught up with music supervisor Paul Stewart, who was involved with the music score for Academy Award-winning Hustle & Flow, to talk about The Hustle.
MIMO: Tell me about your involvement as music supervisor for “The Hustle.”
Paul Stewart: They approached me because they read that I had done “Hustle & Flow” and felt like that whoever put that together has an understanding of hip-hop culture to give this the integrity that it needed. We were challenged from a budgetary standpoint but we just tried really hard to make it true to the culture and the best that we could do, within the restraints that we had.
MIMO: I noticed most of the music in the series is all original.
MIMO: How does that work? As the music supervisor, do you actually work with artists to produce the music we hear in there?
PS: Well, we worked with Freddie to get him on the theme for the show. Freddie Gibbs. Every situation is a little unique, but for this show we were just trying to find … my main concern was getting the music right that the group was performing. So we had Mr. MFN Exquire, he wrote some material for the group. Producers that worked with Jay-Z did one of their tracks – I’m blanking out on their name right now, production crew out of Brooklyn …
MIMO: Music that they’re performing or in the background?
PS: That they’re performing. So, that’s where we got some of the material from. It’s a collaborative process, I provide music to the director and maybe the music editor and they sometimes they pick what they want. And so, it’s not just me. I would’ve done things differently if it was all up to me, let’s say. But, I help the process, but when you want to use a song by a known artist, you go to do the clearing for it through his label or if he has a publishing deal, it could be a tough process.
MIMO: What are your thoughts on this particular project, it’s a mini-series obviously, not a Hustle & Flow type of project. What is the difference between working on “Hustle & Flow” and doing this?
PS: Well, you know, indie film. You put so much energy into that one project. And this is, you kind of have to space it out between different episodes. Creatively, they were both amazing experiences for me. Anything that involves really heavy music, is great for a music supervisor. We had a very short amount of time to create the music for the band, they were hired before we started shooting and I was hired right before then, so it was very hectic. It was literally a couple of weeks. It was real tough. Actually, I had a vacation planned, my wife had a deejay gig in Maui, the week before we started shooting and I had already planned it before I got hired so I was out of town for a while. So the whole thing was nerve-wrecking at first but we started bringing in songs that everybody was agreeing with, it made me feel good. When Jadakiss, Freddie, and real artists listen to the music and told us it was cool, we felt like we did okay. We definitely played it for some people that were if it was wack would tell us, because some people are going to gas you. Some of the homies of the rappers on the show, who ain’t got nothing to lose … we got pretty positive feedback.
MIMO: So one of the songs is a diss song towards Freddie Gibbs …
PS: Yeah, that was all created. Freddie was a really good sport about everything and he just told me, we got to get his diss track back next season. And I agree with that. We can’t do him dirty like that, without giving him the opportunity. It’s really cool because Freddie’s girlfriend is the lead in the show, so there was this great family thing going on. The Ya-Ya character, Erica Dickerson, is actually his real-life girl, so you know … we’re hoping to get a lot more artists this season, we got some great cameos but we want to get more artists involved writing music, placing music, in the show. It was all kind of a test for us.
MIMO: Having Freddie Gibbs and Jadakiss definitely adds credibility instantly. Who are some of the other artists lined up for the show?
PS: Sure. Travis Porter, Nipsey Hussle, Large Professor. These are some of the artists featured in the six episodes. We have other people like video model Rosa Acosta, like Julia Beverly from Ozone Magazine…
MIMO: I have to ask you a tough question. I watch something like this and I immediately think of Platinum (the canceled hip-hop series). That didn’t exactly go over too well for one reason or another, it seems it was hot at first and then fell off.
PS: I heard one of the actresses who played the stylist, Freddie Gibbs’ girlfriend on the show, was on that show. But I never saw it and never heard anybody talk about it. So I missed it and can’t really speak on it.
MIMO: What else are you up to? You’re involved with Atom Factory doing publishing?
PS: We have a music placement company and I also started a book company recently called Over the Edge Books. We have a Pimp C biography coming up that we did with the estate. We just did a book with Michael Miller who is a photographer who shot Pac, Ice Cube and Snoop back in the day. We put out a coffee-table book of his work. I’m doing a movie right now called Strings, it’s an independent film and looking forward to shooting more episodes of The Hustle.
Visit The Hustle’s website for trailer and more.