Aaaannnddd we’re back!
Do you remember a time when people still wore Jheri Curls? When women loved Allen Payne with a passion? When Chris Rock had his original teeth and crack body, and looked like he had 15 cents to his name? When Stoney Jackson was still occasionally working (Theresa Randle too)? When Charlie Murphy was not even close to being as funny as Eddie? When Khandi Alexander looked 20 years older than she does now? When no one knew who Deezer D was (nothing’s changed on that one, btw)?
Well I do. And all of that comes together in the 1993 hip-hop/rap spoof “CB4”. When this first came out, I was totally unimpressed—it starred Chris Rock , who I thought was unbearable to look at at the time, and was directed by Tamra Davis, whose ghetto pass has always been a constant source of wonder and disappointment to me. People were still completely enamored with the South Central phenom Dr. Dre (“The Chronic”) and “Doggystyle” by Snoop Dogg was still absolutely HUGE and a must have and play in everybody’s car. It was also written by Nelson George, whom I still till this day don’t understand why was deemed the voice of hip hop culture.
So of course, no one was tryna see or hear a project that dissed that whole genre. Everyone was buying into into it, so if you were going against the grain, you were instantly wack. And I think that is the exact reason it did not do well on all fronts at the time…it was too soon to make a satire of the scene. It just seemed like a weak, uninspired diss (but probably not to those who knew better). Like I said, no one was trying to hear that, only Dre’s beats at maximum bass and treble capacity.
But not having seen it since it came out, I realize that is was an amazing statement on the fakeness of gangsta rap, and the whole concept of the “South Central” culture, which, if you are truly living that life, is absolutely nothing to be glorified. There is even dialogue alluding to that in the film. But it also skewers commercial sell-out rappers (a la Hammer), video hoes, slimy record execs, so-called hip hop early staples like 40 ounces, and so-called “militant” rap (a la Public Enemy and it’s offshoots).
It is the story of a group of 3 buddies, toiling in their ordinary dead end lives, decide to form a rap group, going through several different transformations (one a hilarious PM Dawn-like riff), until they hit pay dirt with a not too thinly veiled imitation of the ghetto super-group NWA. They go through their breakup and eventually reunion, learning life lessons along the way, with the inevitable YT groupies hanging on to every detail.
This film was ahead of it’s time, and I actually laughed out loud a few times, something that definitely didn’t happen the first time around. Some of the ideas were just so absurd and funny to me; Wacky D and his parachute pants and one leg in the air dancing, the musclebound sidekick talking through a voicebox, the heightened sleaziness of Khandi Alexander’s Supahead-like groupie. It was all so ridiculous and on point all at the same time.
This is a spot on spoof of what was really going on in that scene in the early nineties, but we were too mesmerized by the head nodding to notice. I hope films such as this have a chance to come back in a real way, cause they actually have a sharp eye for human comedy and tragedy melded into one– it’s all the same parts of the pie, and what lies beneath in Black love and culture is much more than meets the eye.
Madame Invisible is presently lamenting all the Black writers, directors, and projects that were given visibility in the 90’s, and seem to have disappeared of the face of the planet. Can someone please help?
I couldn’t find the trailer, so here is the scene of Dead Mike in his pseudo-Chuck D video “I’m Black Y’All”, and that’s all he says, over and over again…hilarious!