An insider joke that spoofs the hip-hop industry and its surrounding media circus, “Death of a Dynasty” marks an inauspicious solo helming bow for Roc-A-Fella Records honcho Damon Dash after co-directing Universal vid title “Paper Soldiers.” The premise is not unpromising: Tired of being depicted by the media in a negative light, a rap impresario and his posse manipulate the press for their own amusement and profit. But the execution is so amateurish and the script so witless the filmmakers appear to be having a far better time than the audience. Diehard hip-hop fans may provide enough distributor incentive for fleeting theatrical exposure, but merely as a stepping stone to video.
Flinging open the doors to his Roc-A-Fella empire, business mastermind Dash (Capone) and creative partner rapper Jay-Z (Robert Stapleton), identify a pawn for their ploy in star-struck hip-hop magazine reporter David Katz (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). Given unlimited access to the Roc-A-Fella inner circle and three weeks to put together an expose by his editor (Rashida Jones), David becomes part of the entourage, following the crew from their offices to clubs and parties and to the Hamptons, and diligently digging for dirt while unaware he’s being fed a line by Damon.
Planting Jay-Z’s foxy girlfriend Picasso (Devon Aoki) as just one of the factors behind a growing rift between the partners, Dash strings David along, fabricating friction the reporter feeds to gossip columns and uses to facilitate his own rise. The stream of scoops helps David secure his own column and radio show, while Damon and Jay-Z orchestrate “the scam of the century” involving a breakaway label and rival recordings.
Aside from Kevin Hart — who does double duty as the mouthpiece of (literally) silent Roc-A-Fella partner Biggs (Gerald Kelly) and as Dash’s rival hip-hop mogul P. Diddy in a derisive imitation — the humor is rarely contagious. Most of the enjoyment consists of spotting the endless parade of star cameos, including a bevy of celebutantes plucked straight from the New York Post’s Page 6 column. Hip-hop stars appearing including the real Dash and Jay-Z, Flavor Flav, Dr. Dre and old-school rappers Jam Master Jay and D.M.C. Latter appearances recall the far more amusing 1994 gangsta rap parody “Fear of a Black Hat.”
Script by Mr. Blue has barely more narrative development than the average musicvideo, and the poorly lit and shot film has the technically sloppy look of a home movie. Dash should stick to his day job.