Fear of a Black Hat

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Fear of a Black Hat
Fear of a black hat.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRusty Cundieff
Produced byDarin Scott
Written byRusty Cundieff
StarringRusty Cundieff
Larry B. Scott
Mark Christopher Lawrence
Kasi Lemmons
Faizon Love
Deezer D
Howie Gold
Music byJim Manzie
Larry Robinson
N.W.H.
Production
  company
ITC Entertainment
Distributed byThe Samuel Goldwyn Company
Release date(s)
  • June 3, 1994 (1994-06-03)
Running time89 min.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$ U.S. 1 million (estimated)
 
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Fear of a Black Hat
Fear of a black hat.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRusty Cundieff
Produced byDarin Scott
Written byRusty Cundieff
StarringRusty Cundieff
Larry B. Scott
Mark Christopher Lawrence
Kasi Lemmons
Faizon Love
Deezer D
Howie Gold
Music byJim Manzie
Larry Robinson
N.W.H.
Production
  company
ITC Entertainment
Distributed byThe Samuel Goldwyn Company
Release date(s)
  • June 3, 1994 (1994-06-03)
Running time89 min.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$ U.S. 1 million (estimated)

Fear of a Black Hat is a 1994 American mockumentary film on the evolution and state of American hip hop music. The film's title is derived from the 1990 Public Enemy album Fear of a Black Planet. Released on June 3, 1994, Fear of a Black Hat was written, produced and directed by, and co-stars Rusty Cundieff.

Plot[edit]

This film is a comedic mockumentary depicting the perspective of a filmmaker as she trails a hardcore gangsta rap group called N.W.H. ("Niggaz With Hats"), a play on the name of the popular group N.W.A. In many ways, Fear of a Black Hat is similar to the satirical film about early 1980s heavy metal This is Spinal Tap.

The members of N.W.H. are:

The film is told from the point of view of Nina Blackburn (Kasi Lemmons), a sociologist who analyzes hip hop as a form of communication for her degree. She chooses N.W.H. as the subject of her thesis and follows them around for a year. She familiarizes herself with the band members, their beliefs, and their often strange behavior.

The members wear outrageous headwear during their performances. This is explained as an act of rebellion, remembering their slave ancestors, who had to work bare-headed in the sun. According to N.W.H., hats are a symbol for resistance and revolution since their hatless ancestors were too tired from working all day in the sun to revolt. This is a typical example of the bizarre logic the group uses to explain the deeper meanings behind their otherwise crude and base music and images.

A steady source of comedy is N.W.H.'s use of over-the-top graphic language (e.g. sex, violence and rantings against the police), which detractors see as a cheap means to sell records, but in their eyes is essential to convey a "socially relevant message". They offer jaw-dropping explanations why songs such as "Booty Juice" and "Come and Pet the P.U.S.S.Y." are in fact deep and socially significant, and that detractors obviously do not truly understand the "real meaning". Throughout the movie, it is difficult to tell if the members of N.W.H. truly believe what they are saying, or are just portraying an image.

A lot of time also goes into describing N.W.H.'s feud with another rap group, the Jam Boys. The groups constantly insult and discredit each other, even sometimes resulting in brandishing weapons. At one point, N.W.H. brings to light evidence that the Jam Boys' lead rapper attended a prep school, directly threatening his street credibility.

A macabre running gag—inspired by This is Spinal Tap—involves their white managers dying under mysterious circumstances (the group originally insist that they "wasn't in town when the shit happened"). They explain to Nina that their first few managers were black—in fact, were their relatives—and that they decided switching to white managers would be better for their families and the black community.

N.W.H.'s internal matters turn sour when Ice Cold cuts down his involvement because he wants to participate in a film, and Cheryl C. (Rose Jackson), a groupie, hooks up with Tasty-Taste. Although she is clearly more interested in his money than in him, Tasty lets her take over his life. When Tasty finds Cheryl and Ice Cold in bed, N.W.H. is no more.

The group breaks up and each member launches a solo career. Ice dedicates himself to house music; Tasty brings out a diss track in which he curses Ice; and Tone Def becomes a hippie (with obvious references to "flower rappers," such as P.M. Dawn). None sees much success until they ultimately reunite for a triumphant comeback in which their differences have been set aside, at least for the time being.

Parody/satirical references[edit]

The members of N.W.H. were created by using combinations of different aspects of different rappers and other people in the rap industry, as opposed to each of them satirizing a specific individual. For instance, Tasty Taste's violent personality and lyrics, short stature, and Jheri curl hairstyle are similar to the rapper Eazy-E from N.W.A., while his dress and name can just as easily be attributed to Flavor Flav from Public Enemy.

Similarly, Ice Cold's name can be said to be a parody of the many different rappers that use the word "Ice" in their names such as Ice Cube and Ice-T, but it can also be said that he easily parodies others such as L.L. Cool J and Snoop Dogg, as well as other rappers. By not centering their parody on one particular person or group, N.W.H. had the flexibility to satirize a wide range of artists, groups, and events in the world of hip hop.

The film satirizes the testosterone-fueled gangsta rap scene, which is obsessed by materialism, street credibility, sex, and violence. It also spoofs and lampoons alternative hip hop, political hip hop, and Afrocentric rap groups. Many hip hop controversies are spoofed as well, including feuds, racial appropriation, censorship, greedy record companies, and many others.

Characters[edit]

Along with the film's title and its central characters, there are other characters seen briefly who are parodies of real-life prominent figures in hip-hop:

Music[edit]

Songs[edit]

Albums[edit]

Soundtrack[edit]

The soundtrack was released by Avatar Records on June 1, 1994. It has only 11 songs and A Gangsta's Life Ain't Fun song was removed from the soundtrack.

  1. Wear Yo Hat - N.W.H.
  2. My Peanuts - Ice Cold
  3. Guerrillas in the Midst - N.W.H.
  4. Booty Juice - N.W.H.
  5. F**k the Security Guards - N.W.H.
  6. A Gangsta's Life Ain't Fun - N.W.H.
  7. Come Pet the P.U.S.S.Y. - The Ice Plant
  8. I'm Just a Human Being - New Human Formantics
  9. Granny Said Kick Yo Arse - Extreme Use of Force
  10. Grab Yo Stuff - N.W.H.
  11. White Cops On Dope - N.W.H.
  12. Ice Froggy Frog - None

Reception[edit]

Although a critical success, Fear of a Black Hat was a financial flop.[1][2][3][4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Maslin, Janet (1994-06-03). "Reviews/Film; Giving the 'Spinal Tap' Treatment to Rap". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-06. 
  2. ^ Rainer, Peter (1994-06-03). "Movie Review : 'Black Hat' Tries to Give the 'Spinal' Treatment to Rap". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-11-06. 
  3. ^ "Fear of a Black Hat". Entertainment Weekly. 1994-06-03. Retrieved 2011-11-06. 
  4. ^ "Fear of a Black Hat". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2011-11-06. 

External links[edit]