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By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 12, 1993


Tamra Davis
Chris Rock;
Allen Payne;
Deezer D.;
Phil Hartman;
Art Evans;
Theresa Randle;
Willard E. Pugh;
Richard Gant;
Charlie Murphy;
Chris Elliott
Under 17 restricted

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Yo! A word of warning to the easily shocked and the rap-illiterate: "CB4," Chris Rock's rapumentary spoof, is bustin' through, with a strong array of "bitches," " 'hos" and far less printable utterances to get Friends of Tipper reaching for their Parents Advisory labels. But if your mood is loose and profane, if you speak hip-hop (or you just like hearing it) and if you think Rock is funny (he is), you'll be glad you checked this out.

Also, if you happened to enjoy Rob Reiner's "This Is Spinal Tap," you're sure to like "CB4." As co-creator Rock has acknowledged, it's the same movie -- only rappified. Instead of "Tap's" highly questionable band of Englishmen playing clunky heavy metal, you've got three black middle-class kids (Rock, Allen Payne and newcomer Deezer D) posing -- and succeeding -- as America's meanest rap band.

"CB4" also owes material to "The Blues Brothers," "House Party," "Wayne's World" and the TV show "In Living Color," but who's pressing charges? It's funny -- if crudely so -- in its own right.

Bored with suburban life and desperate to make it in the music world, the three buddies have tried everything. They've stuffed themselves with cushions to resemble the Fat Boys; they've put plastic bags on their heads. Nothing has worked. But through the kind of plot circumstance that only scriptwriters can dream up, Rock gets into big trouble with club owner/gangster Charlie Murphy. Arrested by undercover cops, Murphy (whose name is Gusto) is wrongly convinced Rock set him up. In a moment of profit-making inspiration, Rock decides to adopt Murphy's name. Now he's MC Gusto. Payne becomes Dead Mike; and Deezer D calls himself Stab Master Arson. They call themselves CB4 after the Cell Block 4 that is now the real Gusto's address. And after promising to fondle themselves lewdly onstage, slur women at any opportunity, and glorify guns and violence, they get a fast contract from sleazy manager Willard E. Pugh. It's time for CB4 to live large.

Rock, who wrote the script with Nelson George, never lacks for funny gags, even if they are cheap, hard-core and politically incorrect (sexist, homophobic, etc.). Director Tamra Davis, who made the enjoyable, offbeat "Guncrazy," puts this all to kinetic use. In a sexual montage, groupie Khandi Alexander makes love to Deezer D, then to Rock. Davis cuts from one scene to the other, showing some essential differences. In one scene, Deezer D, with Alexander's legs wrapped submissively around his back, lowers her to the bed. In the next scene, Alexander is the strong one, with Rock's skinny limbs wrapped around her back.

Placed in the movie for crossover appeal are Phil Hartman, playing a Republican cliche of a politician, who opposes CB4's "demon" music; and Chris Elliott, as a filmmaker making a documentary about the band. Elliott is funny, in his nerd-pan way. On one occasion, as he's conducting a camera interview with Rock, vengeful Murphy pulls up in his monster jeep, guns blazing. With painfully Caucasian enthusiasm, Elliott declares, "It's my first drive-by."

There are straight-faced (and funny) cameos from Ice-T, Ice Cube and Flavor Flav. There are also plentiful digs at the whole hip-hop culture. Almost everyone in the business gets Hammered, from MC to DMC. As with any band movie, this is a moral, rise-and-fall tale. Rock must learn he's a regular guy, not a nasty poseur. Like "Spinal Tap," the movie basically peters out, tying up its narrative loose ends. But for the laughs you get, it's a small price to pay.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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