With the current discourse surrounding this year's Academy Awards focused (rightfully so) on the baffling whiteness of the audience-ignoring batch of nominees, it's easy to forget that 2016 also marks the tenth anniversary of Three 6 Mafia's Best Original Song victory for their Hustle & Flow contribution "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." Though 2006 was an otherwise boring AF year at the Oscars (Crash, anyone?), the Memphis Mafia's unexpected moment of triumph proved a fitting shot in the arm for the tired institution.
"To be honest, I didn't know what the hell an Oscar was," DJ Paul, in a new essay published by the Hollywood Reporter, remembers about the morning he found out he was nominated. "So I Googled the word. And then I saw that gold man and I was like, 'Holy sheriff!' That woke me right up." Paul's essay, which arrives just days ahead of the 88th Academy Awards ceremony, also includes vivid recollections of his Oscar-spurred encounters with Salma Hayek and George Clooney, and a particularly tragic memory of The Purple One.
"After we won, my phone was going crazy," Paul writes. "I've got 200-some text messages. I didn't call nobody back but my momma." According to Paul, he called his mom just to tell her he was currently in an elevator with current American Crime Story frequenterJohn Travolta. " I said, 'Momma, guess who I'm on the elevator with? John Travolta!'" Sadly, the presumably contagious magic of Travolta was not enough to get Three 6 and John Singleton into Prince's party later that night.
However, though Paul's bits about Mr. Clooney are surely worth an essay of their own, his thoughts on bumping into Hayek at a Vanity Fair party do indeed qualify as necessary reading:
Salma Hayek walked up to me — who I was super in love with because of From Dusk Till Dawn with George Clooney — and said the craziest shit: "You know your brothers and sisters are dying over in Africa because of all this jewelry you're wearing." Because I guess we had those big ole watches they gave us on, and these platinum necklaces. So I was like, "What?! What are you talking about? I don't have no brothers and sisters in Africa!" And like that, Salma Hayek killed my hard-on.
Referencing the ongoing #OscarsSoWhite fallout, Paul says he doesn't believe the Oscars is a racist institution due to the fact that "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" nabbed an Oscar for Best Original Song. "[The Academy] wouldn't have given this to three black gangsta rappers — for a song about pimping," Paul argues. "There's no getting blacker than that."
Read DJ Paul's THR essay in full here.