Directed by: Tamra Davis
Written by: Chris Rock, Nelson George, Robert LoCash
Starring: Chris Rock, Allen Payne, Phil Hartman, Chris Elliott
Making it in a world all about image makes it easy for one to not be themselves in order to thrive. No other business makes it a reality more than the celebrity/music world, which is where we find the protagonists of this comedic spoof. While hitting most of its points and led by a charismatic lead performance CB4 proves to be a funny look at the world of rap and what image becomes necessary in order to achieve success.
Albert Brown (Chris Rock) wants to make it big in the rap game with his two friends. After initial failure with the personas they attempt to build, the opportunity to act like gangsters becomes the entryway to their fame. As they rise with their music, they start to face the reckoning that began this whole ride.
The rap game allows for an integration of various voices around the world to make their voices heard. It has been part of movements and revolutions in the past, and this music genre gets a negative wrap because of the perception of it idolizing gang culture and disrespect towards women. Albert represents what it takes for someone to break into this game, what is perceived to be palatable, and what instantly makes him a target for others. Albert’s initial failings arise from a lack of identity and to a hilarious degree. Each time he and his friends attempt to reinvent themselves as something, it never goes well for them. Once they take on this gangster persona, Albert instantly becomes MC Gusto. Instead of the raps he wrote before, his songs now center on gangs, violence, and everything perceived about the rap game. The stage names of his friends go from Euripedes and Otis to Dead Mike and Stab Master Arson respectively. Now, I know this film seeks to be a spoof, but having someone named Stab Master Arson really just spells it out for you.
The story of the rise of MC Gusto and CB4 takes a page out of the domination of NWA to a hilarious degree. Seeing this after watching Straight Outta Compton proved to be like watching the same movie twice. Their stories parallel except for the part where Albert needs to battle with whether or not he’s a fraud in this world, especially when the person that inspired his name learns of their rise. Most of the comedic moments from the film come from this essentially being the story of NWA but if done so by frauds. Knowing the story of the real rap group will allow you to point at certain moments and say, “I understood that reference.”
Leading this film is Chris Rock, who always entertains even with lesser material. He utilizes his impeccable comedic timing to make this story better than it had any right to be. His general demeanor and composure throughout the film serve as the anchor with all of the craziness occurring. He makes the character of Albert believable in his pursuit of fame. I always enjoy whenever Chris Rock attaches himself to projects, and he really does plenty with not much substance in the character of Albert.
Directing the feature, we have Tamra Davis, who takes on this feature after her rather disappointing debut in Guncrazy. This film begins her shift to taking on comedic films and she presents CB4 in the music video style the story plays out. Her work on this movie demonstrates how she can set up these comedians to succeed in her films, which makes it no surprise other comedians like Adam Sandler and Dave Chappelle would work with her as they made Billy Madison and Half Baked. She enjoys these absurdist comedies and this turned out well for her.
With its absurdist story and fun comedic moments, CB4 takes a look at the world of rap and what it takes to succeed. In a way, the film becomes a farce about the image one can promote and never having to actually prove it. How many times do contemporary rappers mention things in their songs they would never actually do? Probably more often than one would think, and this film serves as a mockery of this lifestyle and the potential consequences involved with it. Lots of fun, especially if one enjoys the work of Chris Rock.