Three middle-class kids are desperate to be fully-fledged rappers, but are lacking in street-cred, so when a famous rapper gets put behind bars, they take his place, stealing his identity. When the rapper breaks out of prison, he hunts them down, demanding answers, while politicians are on their back saying they are bad role models.
Cuting a smooth groove between smart-arsed satire and anarchic comedy, Tamra Davis' send-up of rap music's superstar fraternity doesn't always hit the beat, but there are enough in-your-face moments to keep the laughs coming, all served up with a thumpingly funny soundtrack and the sort of X-rated one-liners that would make Mary Whitehouse explode.
Albert Brown (Rock), Euripides Smalls (Payne) and Otis O. Otis (D.) are three black middle-class boys from L.A., desperate to acquire some street-cred and become rap masters. When the local gangster, Gusto, gets busted and ends up in Cell Block Four, the boys see their chance. Acquiring his hardcore identity and a few tons of gold jewellery, they become CB4, ready to cuss, grab their genitals and glorify violence. On their way to rap superstardom, however, Gusto breaks out of jail and comes after the trio for cashing in on his image, while a right-wing politician targets them for defiling the national game by wearing their baseball caps back-to-front.
As the titular trio Rock, Payne and, er, D. are spot on with their piss-take of rap's macho posturing, so too is Saturday Night Live's Chris Elliott as the wimpy white bro' making a "rapumentary" a la Spinal Tap on the band, while Eddie Murphy's older brother Charlie cuts the mustard as a swaggering villain. The film's half-parody, half-tribute approach takes the edge off the satire, however, and this occasionally gets carried away in its own silliness. But if the shift from comedy to social statement is about as subtle as Gusto's ten-gallon condom, the homeboys and girls in the house should love every minute of it.
Not all Saturday Night Live sketches succeed in the transition from small screen 5 minute slot to hour and a half, with CB4 a fine example of one with mixed results. Rock and his group do well in mocking not only the blacks, but whites and all number of classes along the way, except the story doesn't quite manage to hold it's own as the joke begins to tire after the first hour.