"Fear of a Black Hat" is designed to be a rap version of the classic mock rock documentary "This Is Spinal Tap," and the idea is so funny that for a long time the film coasts on our good will. But it should be funnier than it is. Writer-director Rusty Cundieff, who also stars, along with Larry B. Scott and Mark Christopher Lawrence, as one of the three members of the rap group N.W.H., has a loose-limbed comic sense, and there are hilarious bits poking through the tedium. What the movie lacks is any kind of smart, sociological sense. It's a defanged spoof.
The biggest in-joke about gangsta rap, after all, is that its largest audience is white. Black rappers, many from middle-class backgrounds, market the white audience's worst racial fears. Instead of getting into this kind of material, Cundieff goes for more obvious (and safer) targets: Vanilla Ice types and cringing money-grubbing managers.
The rap group's numbers aren't particularly well-staged, or funny, but a few of their MTV clips are almost indistinguishable from what's really on the network. (That's the joke.) There's a funny interview with one of the rappers about the meaning of the group's name where he goes into a long diatribe about how slaves weren't allowed to wear hats, and another where the group's recurring use of the word butt is explained away as a social statement.