An automatic sliding glass door is Hustle & Flow's first point of difference from other bars. The next is its colourful wall murals by top graffiti artists like Phibs, Pudl and OnShow — and a pretty dope giraffe painted by the owner himself, Tim Duhigg.
The bouncy hip hop and RnB soundtrack makes this place feel buzzy yet relaxed. It's all '90s-'00s, stretching from Tweet's 'Boogie 2Nite' to Aloe Blacc's 'I Need a Dollar' to Biggie to Ice Cube (but no hardcore gangsta rap). A flatscreen displays whatever jam's playing, so the curious listener can put her iPhone's SoundHound to bed.
Behind a section of black leather sofas that suggest a skeezy hotel lobby, a glass cabinet displays hip hop and sports memorabilia, including a basketball signed by Dennis Rodman and a tiny spray can belonging to Tim's daughter. The bar itself is made of transparent orange resin, with original vintage pub tiles underfoot. It faces a row of tall tables crafted from recycled wooden palettes and high-quality, expensive resin. Not to sound too arts degree, but isn't this what the hip hop narrative is all about? Rags-to-riches? We were impressed by the metaphor-loaded furniture.
Also impressive is the almost scholastic commitment to theme: the cocktails are all hip hop classics, each listed with a snatch of lyrics from the song that mentions it. Tupac's Thug Passion ($11) comes in three hues of Alize and champagne; blue's the sweetest and most popular, but orange wins, with its citrusy passionfruit note. The Incredible Hulk ($9) is a long shot of Hypnotiq and Hennessy over ice, which I wasn't crazy about, but my companion was. The winner was the Hurricane ($15) despite its trail of destruction: a deceptively idyllic, sunset-pink melee of Bacardi, Bacardi 151, Triple Sec, Grenadine and pineapple. The 151's taste is imperceptible, but its 75 percent alcohol content is not — this is the moment when you get Tim to write your address on your forehead so you make it home. The beers include South Sydney brews Green Star Lager ($10) and Cinnamon Girl Spiced Ale ($10); you could share a litre of Sol Lager with friends ($16) or down a 'poor man's Mimosa', the Brass Monkey ($7).
With such dedication to theme, one gets the sense there's scope for expansion. Maybe a weekly hip hop karaoke night or emcee battles? (Tim voiced a dream to have someone throw down some cardboard outside the door and act as a 'welcome breaker' — an idea I'd back all the way.) The bar's calendar marks great dates in hip hop, so watch out for drink deals on Biggie's birthday and a food menu that's under development.
The cocktails could be more complex, but with a strong concept, committed crew, welcoming space and great soundtrack, I intend to hustle in and flow out frequently. (Sometimes the sliding door doesn't open immediately. You must dance to escape.)