Back in the days when I was a teenager, before I had status and when I had a pager…I used to pop A Tribe Called Quest CD into my car and just cruise listening to the tracks front to back. It didn’t matter which album it was, because really, I could listen to all of them like that. Fast forward, thirteen years later, and this hip hop crew has a documentary film to follow their influential paths of rhythm, which still get major love today. In BEATS, RHYMES & LIFE: THE TRAVELS OF A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, actor-turned-director Michael Rapaport tells the tale of A Tribe Called Quest, with all the trials and tribulations in between.
Watching a movie about ATCQ is quite surreal. The whole soundtrack brings me back to high school, so actually sitting in a theater and taking a history lesson on one of your favorite crews made me realize how hip hop has really grown. There aren’t too many documentaries out there focused solely on hip hop music, let alone one group. And to be directed by Rapaport, who lists ATCQ as his favorite group, means that this flick will get also major play. It was already an official selection at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. What? A Tribe Called Quest playing at Sundance? That’s quite a journey for the Tribe, but once you’ve already gone platinum and still continue to rock the mic 10 years after a break-up, then the big screen is the next quest.
There’s no surprise that just listening to the movie made it worth it. At times, it was almost like watching a movie-length music video, with plenty of cuts from their actual videos. But the mix of interviews, live show footage, throwback photos, and even animation is what really turned this into an interesting documentary. Aside from the interviews with ATCQ members Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammed, and Gerobi, other folks in the hip hop game share with the cameras how Tribe has influenced them. So many faces were featured on the Midnight Marauders album cover, so there is no doubt that more people, from the old school to the new, would come represent for ATCQ.
We are all his sons. J Dilla, myself, Kanye. We couldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Tribe. – Pharrell Williams
Aside from the beats and rhymes, there’s a whole lot of life going on in the film, weaving in personal stories about the struggles that the crew has been through. Phife Dawg, the funky diabetic, shares how his battle with type 1 diabetes has ultimately affected his music career, but also has kept him inspired to keep going even after the break-up. And that brings us to the break-up…
It was a sad time in hip hop when ATCQ decided to split in 1998 after their Love Movement album. How could such a dynamite combination of talent call it quits? Unfortunately, as people grow up, they also tend to grow apart, and that’s just what happened to Q-Tip and Phife Dawg. Friends since 2 years old, and rapping since the tender age of 9, these two had been working together for a long time so a fallout was inevitable. But in 2008, 10 years after their split, ATCQ pushed all their differences aside to go back on tour to give the fans some more. There were plenty of objections to reunite, but Q-Tip confesses,
…the one that motivated me to do it was Phife.
It wasn’t a completely blissful reunion, as Phife and Q-Tip still had some tension in their bones. But nonetheless, they stuck through it all, the health problems, the personal issues, the power trips, and the group dynamics to continue to tour and show the world all about their beats, rhymes, and life.
If you’re fan of A Tribe Called Quest, or even hip hop in general, then this is a must-see film. Ditch the chick-flick and summer blockbusters and find out where and when this is playing in a city near you.
Image layout by C-Rocka.
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