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copyright ©1999-2001

flick pick | Fear of a Black Hat 1993
Directed + written by: Rusty Cundieff
Starring: Mark Christopher Lawrence, Larry B. Scott, Rusty Cundieff, Kasi Lemmons
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: / 5 

Plot synopsis Nina Blackburn is a graduate student in sociology who’s doing her doctoral dissertation on rap music, and at the center of her work is a documentary she’s creating on rap group NWH (Niggaz with Hats). Fronted by loquacious Ice Cold and backed by his two friends, the bitter Tasty Taste and easygoing Tone Def, NWH are rising stars in the rap music world. As Blackburn asks the boys of NWH the usual questions regarding the ubiquitousness of racism, violence and misogyny in rap music, Ice, Tasty and Tone spin all manner of bizarre justifications in their own defense, aware all the time of how important it is for them to maintain that image of raw, dangerous, 100% authentic gangsta edge – even while they’re attempting to expand their audience reach, giving into commercialism so that they can start raking in the big bucks. Not surprisingly, as their fame increases and the money starts flowing in, the raging egos of Ice Cold and Tasty Taste begin to threaten the group’s future.

Review Let me admit right now: I don’t know diddly about rap music. So I fully expected to be completely bored by this rap version of Spinal Tap – it seemed entirely likely that, given my complete ignorance regarding the entire musical genre, the jokes would simply swoosh right over my head. Amazingly enough, I actually laughed … a lot in fact. And though there’s no doubt that this mockumentary’s even funnier if you happen to know a little something about the music and its history – the humor in seeing Tasty Taste on stage wearing a huge trophy around his neck had to be explained to me by my boyfriend – Fear of a Black Hat appeals on a broader level as well, especially to anyone who’s ever watched their favorite little local band suddenly hit it big, then struggle with balancing their integrity with mainstream success. If you can see the inherent absurdity of an artist insisting that his song titled "Kill Whitey" bears no racist message, if the notion of a supposedly-controversial, old-school rap song called "My Peanuts" makes you chuckle, if the mere mention of a fictional prominent black filmmaker named "Jike Springleton" strikes you as remotely amusing, you’ll find plenty to enjoy about Rusty Cundieff’s fresh, funny, rather wonderfully un-p.c. little film.
—reviewed by Y. Sun   

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