Released in early 1993, “CB4” was both a perfectly timed satire of the genre’s excesses and an affectionate celebration of its barely-two-decade history. It kicks off with a montage of hip-hop artifacts set to Doug E. Fresh’s ebullient classic “The Show,” then gets to lampooning the suburban-kids-turned-gangstas arc followed by more than a few hip-hop stars. It’s about being hard, and how confusing the act with reality got more than a few artists in too deep with real-deal gang members. It also ignores the fact that some of these artists weren’t suburban brats like Rock’s character, but the first movie to be explicitly about rap couldn’t possibly be all things to all people.
In a 1993 interview with Spin, Rock, who wrote the film with esteemed cultural critic Nelson George and Robert LoCash, said he was proud of the film’s authenticity.
“All the rap stuff is there … You got the female reporters: ‘Why do you call women b***hes and hos?’ Phil Hartman plays this politician who’s trying to outlaw the group. You got one scene where a bunch of dancers — girls from videos — are talking, and one says, ‘You know my left tit was prominently featured in Eric B’s last video.’ I think it’s the first good rap movie.”
As a massive hip-hop fan who came of age during the music’s ascendance, I’d say, on a surface level (which, as a kid from a small, very white Ohio town, is all I’m qualified to judge), that it effectively spoofs the genre’s tendency towards misogyny and flash-in-the-pan novelty. CB4’s trial-and-error phase at a local club (“We’re The Bag Heads!”) is outrageously funny, as is the trio’s post-breakup attempts at solo success (“I’m black, y’all!”). And Lance Crouther trying to beat money out of a dead Willard E. Pugh in his coffin may be the most randomly hilarious thing I’ve ever seen.