Y'Lan Noel (left), Erica Dickerson, London Brown and Clinton Lowe… (Fuse )
Take it from someone who's clueless about "the hippity-hop," you don't have to be a fan of the genre to enjoy "The Hustle," the first scripted series from music network Fuse.
Created by Prentice Penny (producer/writer on "Happy Endings," "Scrubs" and Fox's upcoming "Brooklyn Nine Nine"), "The Hustle" (10 p.m. CT June 19, Fuse; 3 stars out of 4) follows the fictional rap group Brooklyn's Finest as the duo, Kutta and D (Y'Lan Noel and London Brown, respectively), struggle to get signed by a major record label with the help of childhood friend and A&R rep Ya-Ya (Erica Dickerson).
Comparisons can be made to HBO's "Entourage"—like that show's Turtle character, the duo's buddy, Rashad (Clinton Lowe), keeps things light—but "The Hustle" actually has a grittiness more similar to HBO's other rags-to-riches tale, "How to Make It in America." The shaky, hand-held camera shots and seemingly improved dialogue delivered by a charismatic cast adds to the lo-fi realism.
And like ABC's "Nashville," the show uses original music created for its cast members, who also perform. The six-episode first season includes cameos from rappers such as Jadakiss, Freddie Gibbs, Red Cafe, Travis Porter and Nipsey Hussle, as well as radio personalities the Breakfast Club, DJ Whoo Kid and DJ Skee.
In Wednesday's premiere, Ya-Ya is working several angles to help the duo finally break out from the underground scene. But landing that elusive deal means complications for Ya-Ya as well as Kutta and D, who get an offer that tests their loyalties to each other and Ya-Ya.
Anyone who has seen "Entourage" or any biopic about someone who becomes a star will recognize the well-worn allegories of show-biz drama. It isn't easy to stay true to yourself, your friends or your vision in the shark-infested waters of the entertainment business.
I can't address the accuracy of the show's portrayal of the hip-hop world, but I applaud Penny for avoiding stereotypes in creating these very human, multi-dimensional characters.
With these appealing characters and generally strong storytelling, "The Hustle" has flow.
(FYI: That's the first episode in the video at top of the page.)
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