[box cover]

Fear of a Black Hat

Released shortly after Chris Rock's uneven 1994 CB4, Fear of a Black Hat was closer to what both films appeared to be: a rap version of the comedy classic This Is Spinal Tap. In fact, here the resemblance is so strong (from the structure to some of the gags) that it's more theft than homage. The mockumentary follows Nina Blackburn (Kasi Lemmons) as she follows around N.W.H. — "Niggas with Hats." The band is led by Ice Cold (writer/director Rusty Cundieff), and includes Tasty Taste (Larry B. Scott, best remembered as Lamar from Revenge of the Nerds) and Tone-Def (Mark Christopher Lawrence). Along the way, they get into trouble with cops and security guards — leading to one of their biggest hits, "Fuck the Security Guards" (a parody of the N.W.A. classic "Fuck tha Police") — get in arguments over one of their groupies, break up, and then get back together. The film is essentially a collection of skits lampooning the pretentious and contradictory nature of many of the major rap acts who were breaking out in the late '80s/early '90s, including (but not limited to) Public Enemy, Kris Kross, P.M. Dawn, LL Cool J, Ice T, and — most obviously — N.W.A. As such, one's memory for some of the hijinks that surrounded rap and hip-hop at the time (2 Live Crew being arrested for obscenity; controversy over who provided the vocals for C+C Music Factory) is nearly a prerequisite to get much of the comedy, while often the more direct parody is too on the nose. Case in point: One character is a filmmaker named Jike Spingleton, and as if that joke weren't obvious enough, the character then calls out Spike Lee and John Singleton for stealing his ideas. Black Hat is at its best when the pretentious yammering stars of N.W.H. are trying to justify a song like "Booty Juice" or swearing that they're "Rappers Against Violence" while celebrating and reveling in their thug lives. It's funny enough, but it doesn't transcend what it's parodying as well as Spinal Tap does. Columbia TriStar presents the film in widescreen (1.85:1) with Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. A fully loaded special edition, the platter features 14 deleted scenes, an hour of current interviews with the three members of N.W.H. (done in character), a hosted version of the film where N.W.H. show up to talk about the film (their intrusions last about three minutes), 12 music videos including the "Ice Froggy Frog" video used to promote the film (which is rather clever, if you know the Snoop Dogg video it's based on), a commentary by Cundieff, and trailers for this and other films. Keep-case.

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