Rap music is full of cinephiles, but few rappers have taken their love of film as far as Cage. After generating thunderous underground buzz for his early singles, Cage released an inauspicious full-length debut as part of porn-obsessed Eastern Conference supergroup Smut Peddlers, then made a more striking impression with his tellingly titled solo debut Movies For The Blind, whose memorably cheesy cover paid homage to John Carpenter's underrated Reagan-era science-fiction allegory They Live. True to its title, Movies was cinematic in scope and full of sinister wit, surreal imagery, and quotable rhymes. Cage's love of B-movies and trash culture finds a peculiar new outlet in Nighthawks, which pairs Cage with acclaimed producer and rapper Camu Tao. Essentially hip-hop's answer to fan fiction, Nighthawks finds the duo rapping from the perspective of the protagonists of the mostly forgotten 1981 movie of the same name. Basing a concept album on a fairly obscure Billy Dee Williams movie would be strange enough, but Cage and Tao's conception of the film has little to do with the version available at less-discriminating Blockbusters. Bruce Malmuth's film was a standard-issue cop thriller featuring a familiar pair of renegade cops with their own way of doing things. In Cage and Tao's minds, however, it's about drug-abusing, sex-crazed, wantonly destructive monsters with badges. Cage and Tao's re-imagining of the film is full of potential for the sick thrills and black humor that have become Cage's stock in trade, but the album's execution leaves much to be desired. Indifferently produced by Tao and High & Mighty/Smut Peddlers beatsmith DJ Mighty Mi, Nighthawks confirms that Cage is ill-served by the supergroup format. Even more than Smut Peddlers' Porn Again, Nighthawks brings out his rote, unimaginative worst. Tao likewise fails to distinguish himself as a rapper or a producer, and dopey skits only underscore the project's pointlessness. What could have been the beginning of an intriguing new chapter in rap music's long-standing love affair with movies instead feels like a premature dead end.

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