Audience reaction to a late-night screening at Sundance Film Festival of Rusty Cundieff's "Fear of a Black Hat," a mock documentary about rap, confirmed its instant status as a midnight movie. But wild, irreverent humor and exuberant music may also help this spoof find a larger, hip public in urban centers, where such fare has a special appeal.

Audience reaction to a late-night screening at Sundance Film Festival of Rusty Cundieff’s “Fear of a Black Hat,” a mock documentary about rap, confirmed its instant status as a midnight movie. But wild, irreverent humor and exuberant music may also help this spoof find a larger, hip public in urban centers, where such fare has a special appeal.

Inspired by “This Is Spinal Tap,” the new parody exposes the trials of a hardcore rap band called N.W.H. (Niggas With Hats), from a “tough neighborhood, U.S.A.” (i.e. L.A.’s South Central).

What little structure the film has is provided by interviewer Nina Blackburn (Kasi Lemmons), a doctoral sociology student writing a thesis about rap, who follows the group across the country on their tour.

Former stand-up comic Cundieff is cast as Ice Cold, the band’s lead rapper and existential philosopher who always argues and fights with his mates, Tasty Taste (Larry B. Scott), a weapons freak, and Tone Def (Mark Christopher Lawrence), the group’s more spiritual voice. Given the chance, the eccentric trio express their views about any issue of social ill.

Though revolving around one joke–which gets numerous mutations–pic’s gags are witty and timely. Working now with a sixth manager, the rappers recall how each of their previous five was killed in “an accident.”

Good musical numbers serve as welcome punctuation to a film that grows increasingly tedious.

Special kudos go to production designer Stuart Blatt and costumer Rita McGhee for creating a visually striking film. “Fear of a Black Hat” is a shade too repetitious, but directed by Cundieff at fever pitch, its high energy never falters.

Fear of a Black Hat

Production

An Oakwood Films production. Produced by Darin Scott. Executive producer, W.M. Christopher Gorog. Directed, written by Rusty Cundieff.

Crew

Camera (color), John Demps; editor, Karen Horn; music, Larry Robinson; production design, Stuart Blatt; set decoration, Penny Barrett; costume design, Rita McGhee, sound (Ultra stereo), Oliver L. Moss; special effects, Kevin McCarthy; hair and makeup, Stacye Branche; casting, Jaki Brown, Kimberly Hardin. Reviewed at the Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah, Jan. 30, 1993. Running time: 86 min.

With

Tasty Taste - Larry B. Scott
Tone Def - Mark Christopher Lawrence
Ice Cold - Rusty Cundieff
Nina Blackburn - Kasi Lemmons
Guy Friesch - Howie Gold
Marty Rabinow - Barry Heins
Jike Singelton - Eric Laneuville
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