Chris Rock’s 1993 feature length spoof of the gangster rap of the late 80s and early 90s and the culture that surrounded it. The premise is that three middle class boys looking to break into the rap music charts adopt the persona of a local gang lord who they think is safely in prison, taking the name CB4 from the cell block in which he is incarcerated. Unfortunately, the gangster, “Gusto” (Charles Q. Murphy), based loosely on Nino from New Jack City, escapes from prison, and sets out to exact revenge on the now wildly successful rappers, to hilarious results. Other characters include a politician (Phil Hartman) trying to score points by demonizing rap, the group’s producer Trustus Jones (Williard E. Pugh), who has shades of Don King, Sissy (Khandi Alexander), a bombshell rap groupie hired by Trustus to debauch the boys, and A. White (Chris Elliot), a documentarian.

The three members of CB4 are based to varying degrees on the three big stars of the real life group NWA. MC Gusto (Chris Rock) is the Eazy-E character, a little guy with a jheri curl and perpetual smirk. Dead Mike (Allen Payne) is obviously Ice Cube, as his career change takes him from being a gay phone sex operator to a comically black power obsessed rapper, characterized by liberal use of the word “Nubian” and an ever-present con-man spiritual advisor. In one of the funniest bits, Dead Mike’s solo track after the mid-movie break up of CB4 contains only the words “I’m Black” repeated over and over. The group's DJ, Stab Master Arson (Deezer D), has hints of Dr. Dre. Arson cares only about the music and loosing his virginity, and is the least comfortable with his new gangster persona.

Other references to that era’s culture include Wacky Dee, a simultaneous parody of C+C Music Factory and MC Hammer that stands for the lame, toothless music that competed with gangster rap, Straight Outta Locash, CB4’s big song modeled on NWA’s Straight Outta Compton, and the ‘Pure Piss’ brand of malt liquor that is the group’s drink of choice.

In the end, MC Gusto concludes that he was wrong to promote misogyny and violence and returns to being mild mannered Albert Jones. The movie closes with the group performing Rapper’s Delight, seeming to turn their back on the more controversial gangster style. All in all, a funny romp down memory lane.

CB4 (1993)
Screenplay: Chris Rock and Nelson George
Director: Tamra Davis
Executive Producers: Sean Daniel and Brian Grazer
Producer: Nelson George

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