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Actor, self-taught musician (piano and guitar), and singer Terrence Howard was born March 11, 1969, in Chicago, IL, but grew up in Cleveland, OH, the grandson of New York stage actor Minnie Gentry. Emancipated by the time he was 16, Howard moved to New York City at the age of 18, studying chemical engineering for a time at Pratt Institute. He was discovered on the street by a casting director and soon was taking parts in television shows like Living Single, NYPD Blue, and Soul Food, and he had the lead role in UPN's Sparks. He also appeared in a host of big-screen roles, including parts in Mr. Holland's Opus, The Best Man, Dead Presidents, Idlewild, Iron Man, and Crash, as well as 2005's Hustle & Flow, which saw Howard perform on several of the cuts that went into the soundtrack, including "It's Hard Out There for a Pimp," which went on to win the award for Best Original Song at the 78th annual Academy Awards. Rap really wasn't Howard's main thing musically, though, and his influences, which range from Duke Ellington and Quincy Jones to James Taylor, Curtis Mayfield, and Nina Simone, blended together into what Howard called "urban country" on his debut album, Shine Through It, which was produced by Howard with Miles Mosley and released by Columbia/Sony in 2008. ~ Steve Leggett, Rovi