No I.D. and Reggieknow are about that cheese, literally. Last month, the pair debuted their self-proclaimed “art project,” Kraft of Revenge: Mousetrap 2, the follow-up to Mousetrap, which was initially released in 2011.
The two films center around a New York Hip Hop love story. Mousetrap is based on works from Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, while Kraft of Revenge: Mousetrap 2 is centered around Nas. Both films are on time for the 20th anniversary of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… and Illmatic.
“They’re very cult and super over the top, cheap in content and price,” according to the On My Grindhouse event flyer. “It’s usually two movies. Our plan is to spoof the idea of a grindhouse.”
No I.D., Grammy award-winning record producer and current Executive Vice President of A&R for Def Jam Recordings, presented the project as the head of ARTium, an arm of Def Jam dedicated to art projects from musicians. His roster currently holds Cocaine 80s, Vince Staples, Jhene Aiko and Elijah Blake.
Reggieknow wrote, directed and acted in both films. He presented as the founder of two entities: Fashion Figure Inc. and This Day Anime. FFINC is a Hip Hop ‘fashion figure’ company. It’s based on Reggie’s tastes, only the clothes they make are for 12 inch, super detailed ‘fashion figures.’ He also started This Day Anime, an animated version of Seinfeld meets Hip Hop.
Mousetrap guided the audience through the beginnings of a love triangle between Chris Gibbs, his girlfriend Beth, and the money that came between them.
The film began with a shot of Chris Gibbs and his general Reggieknow walking down the street discussing a real-life collaboration. “It’ll be like fresh baked marble cake… on LaBrea Avenue!” Reggieknow said.
The two were better known on the block as Cheese Grinders, running the streets until they met the Mousetrapketeers. Being Union LA’s notorious street hustler, Chris thought he had the juice. But what he didn’t have was any idea of Beth’s (the leader of the Mousetrap Club) intentions.
They started a working relationship, but eventually, while they were breaking down some bricks of cheese together, the trap queen flipped on her king. She put a gun to his head and took him for all the shredded cheddar he had. She took a bite of her grilled cheese and walked off.
Kraft of Revenge: Mousetrap 2 begins where Mousetrap left off. The Cheese Grinders are plotting their revenge while the Mousetrap Club is bathing in opulence at the Holiday Inn — eating grilled cheese sandwiches and tossing Kraft singles at male strippers.
At this point, Reggieknow is plotting on the Mousetrapketeers, heavy. He bargains with an informant to get the location of the Mousetrap Club and then recruits “two fly bitches, Venus and Vicous,” to help him infiltrate the stronghold. Chris takes the two Mousetrapketeer imposters and heads to Beth’s traphouse. He uses them as Trojan Horses to get in and quickly finds himself face to face with the femme fatale.
Reggieknow is playing lookout outside. He starts to get impatient though, so he steps out of his van for a second. Shortly after touching his feet to the ground, he’s tripped up and eaten alive by Mousetrapketeers. Next, the Cheeto-eating informant gets shot in the face with an Uzi. The Kraft of Revenge love story ends with a standoff between Chris and Beth. They both pull the trigger.
Following the Kraft of Revenge screening, HipHopDX had the chance to speak with Reggieknow, in which he clarified a few thematic elements.
The inspiration is rooted in homage. “The first level of the foundation is John Woo,” he said. “So we’re talking about The Killer, and A Better Tomorrow and Hard Boiled…”
The entirety of both films was spoken in Cantonese with English subtitles.
“It was to really go hardcore authentic in representing when we were getting those movies,” Reggie said.
He wanted to pay homage to those things and give the Mousetrap films a “bootleg VHS kind of deal.” Reggieknow talked about the little shops in Times Square and how they would sell rare gangster, karate and anime films. The actor-director is also a former ad-man, and developed the Voltron campaign in 1998, which featured rappers spitting in English alongside Japanese subtitles.
The Mousetrap Club hired Chinese male strippers. Reggieknow cited their ethnicity as further homage to John Woo.
“It’s homage to the John Woo films, because the John Woo films were also Cantonese,” he said. “If you look at The Killer and the guy that who gave us the information about the Mousetrapketeers at the Holiday Inn, he’s watching A Better Tomorrow. Also, that’s the name of Wu-Tang’s latest album, A Better Tomorrow. Why? Because they were trying to capture what Raekwon did with Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…”
The second layer is Nas’ album, It Was Written.
“If you listen to ‘The Set Up’ by Nas on It Was Written, you’ll catch a lot of things that happened in MouseTrap 2,” he said. “Nas talks about these two girls being suspicious, that he used to set up these drug dealers, and then the girls set the guys up to get robbed. And so I call this escort service called Black Girl Lost Escort, because the girls are late, which was Venus and Vicious, so I used them to basically knock at the door of Mousetrap 2, where Chris and I enter.”
The Hennessy bottles that the Mousetrap Club were popping at the Holiday Inn were dedicated to Mobb Deep because on “The Set Up,” Nas raps: “Probably wanted to hit the Holiday Inn, I grabbed the phone and called the Mobb and them.” The bottles were purposely labeled “Hennesy” in Kraft of Revenge: Mousetrap 2, a tribute to Nas and the jerseys that Mobb Deep were rocking in “Shook Ones Part 2.”
According to the On My Grindhouse event flyer, the idea was to give grindhouse film a Hip Hop spin. The flyer reads: On my grindhouse: not exploitation or Blaxploitation but Blaxploi5%nation!”
Reggieknow said that phrases like “Oh, word up” stem from the Five-Percent Nation “because Hip Hop, always had a foundation from its beginning — knowledge itself.”
He continued to explain that these films celebrate Hip Hop culture, a contrast to the negativity of blaxploitation films and the “insulting” and “degrading” nature of a lot of today’s Hip Hop.
“The Mousetrapketeers – they’re basically a black, female, feminist gang,” Reggie told HipHopDX. “And they basically stick up guys that are getting cheese, right?”He continued:
“So when we met them in part one, we thought, ‘Oh, ok we met these cool chicks.’ But we thought, Chris and I in part one, we thought we were gonna be two for him, two for me. But, you know, basically they set us up to rob us.”
Fashion was important in the creation of the project as well. Reggieknow collaborated with Chris Gibbs, owner of Union Los Angeles, to bring back the “Yo Baby, Yo” tees from the mid-80s, which were prevalent throughout both films, as were the matching Mickey Mouse Ear Hats.
There was a lot of mixing and matching of brand name apparel in the Mousetrap films. “I created Filabee in part one,” he said. “I took the Wallabee Clark, which was homage to Ghostface and for Linx, and put the Fila on those. Then in part 2, I had the construction turn Timbs with the Nike swoops, called Timbernikes.”
The Fila and Lacoste brands are most prevalent.
“And then in Part 2, is another swap meet classic of the Polo Ralph Lauren player on top of the Lacoste alligator,” Reggieknow said.
The niche fashion designer took a page out of Wes Anderson’s book when he created original fits for the film.
“Like he did with Life Aquatic, with Adidas… He had a certain wardrobe that he created just for his films,” Reggie said. “So like if you think about the ‘375th Street Y’ in The Royal Tenenbaums or the Life Aquatic Adidas — the see-through Adidas he had in Life Aquatic.”