Fear of a Black Hat (1994) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Maybe you've wondered to yourself why This is Spinal Tap hasn't been imitated, since it was obviously a very effective format. It fact, it has been imitated, and very well, although the best clone came and went without much fanfare.

Fear of a Black Hat is almost identical to Spinal Tap in style and format, with the greatest difference in the two films being the difference between the two styles of music being lampooned. While Spinal Tap went after the white boy geek-chic of the heavy metal culture, Fear of a Black Hat zooms in on the world of rap.

It is actually a mockumentary in the guise of a student documentarian's chronicle of her life on the road with NWH (Niggaz Wit Hats), a popular gangsta group featuring Tone Def, Ice Cold, and Tas-T Taste. The group has a whole hat philosophy going for them. Imagine, if you will, pictures of America before the Civil War, and you'll conjure up images of doughy, pasty-faced white men standing around in gigantic tricorner hats, watching black men work the fields in the bright sun, hatless. The black male's current obsession with hats is a bold rejection of the hatless nature of the culture of enslavement. Or so the group contends. Their philosophy leads to an astounding collection of hats, which they wear in their private lives as well as in concerts: pirate hats, Dr. Seuss hats, sports caps, military hats, fedoras, yarmulkes, berets, you name it. A hat for every occasion.

Along the way, we see the rivalry between rap groups for the most street cred. One group outs a "gangsta" from another group with his high school pictures, revealing him to have been editor of the yearbook, and a "rich-ass, prep school, coat and tie, checkered pants wearin' mothafucka". We see two groups of rappers speak to school kids as members of RAV, "rappers against violence". They begin the lecture by showing the children a video entitled "A Gangsta's Life Ain't Fun", which shows the joyless gangstas enjoying prosperity, fancy clothes and topless women in a hot tub. They end the lecture with a gun battle between rival rap groups, while the petrified children and their teacher flee for their lives.

Anti-violent rapper Tas-T Taste has the world's largest private collection of unregistered weapons, and even owns a bazooka. His ultimate claim to street cred is that he's the only rapper who can show a bazooka wound when those other pussies are showing their wimpy knife and gunshot scars.


There is some anonymous toplessness in one of the group's videos (Dominique Simone and Alicia Rio), while another of their videos is nothing but booty shots of women in thong bikinis.

Rosemarie Jackson shows some deep cleavage and the bottom of her buns in a sex scene.

There is also a white rapper on the scene. Although the guy is named Vanilla Sherbet, he is nothing like Vanilla Ice, but is just about a perfect evocation of Eminem, even though ol Slim Shady was not yet in the national hip-hop scene when this movie was made.

He's not the only white guy in the film. There are record company executives trying desperately to be "def", for example, and NWH also employs white managers. Many other black people criticize them for not hiring brothers to be their managers, but since their last six managers have been shot to death, they think that hiring white men is a service to the black community.

Although Fear of a Black Hat never found an audience in its theatrical run, it is now quite a cult favorite. NWH, the mock rap group in the film, even has its own funny web site.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen letterboxed 1.85:1

  • see the commentary to the right

How did this film get ignored when it was released, then subsequently forgotten?

It's a hilarious and underrated movie, and the DVD is even more fun. Word.

Rusty Cundieff, who wrote, directed, and starred in the film, also does a full-length commentary. There are 14 deleted or expanded scenes and 12 full-length rap videos. There are outrageous interviews. There are also English-language subtitles which allow the audience to see all the words of the songs, and to follow all of the jokes even when they are delivered in heavy dialect.

The Critics Vote

  • Consensus: three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4.

The People Vote ...

  • Total US box office: a flop. $238,000


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. OK, not everyone will love this gross, offensive, film as much as I do. Nonetheless, this movie deserves about a zillion times as much fame as it has actually achieved. It is one funny-ass mothafucka.

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