Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest
Directed by Michael Rapaport
A hip-hop purist’s dream come through, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest has the depth that reggae fans enjoyed from a film about the life story on the iconic Bob Marley, such as Caribbean Nights: A BBC Documentary on the life of Bob Marley.
A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) were pioneers in hip-hop and credited to selling 5 Gold and Platinum albums before their 1998 break-up. Not everyone who’s tagged a ‘hip-hop’ fan will have an interest in seeing a flick on the group – consisting of Phife Dawg, Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White – because in 2011, more than 10 years after ATCQ broke up, the world of hip-hop has changed tremendously from once having a majority of proud ‘backpackers’ and close-circle hip-hop followers, to harboring an undetectable and hard-to-track mainstream pop fanbase, wannabe Bentley-renters and Champagne-popping partygoers! But no matter what, for those music enthusiasts who’ve been groomed in 1990’s hip-hop culture either through college, growing up in the inner city, or sitting comfortably in the suburbs, one glimpse of this documentary running on YouTube (or this official trailer clip), this documentary film focused on this milestone group, is definitely of interest.
Despite the unnecessary focus by the film’s director Michael Rapaport on the riff between the group’s main lyricists, rappers Phife Dawg and Q-Tip – more of a focus on expected ‘bad behavior’ that surely would’ve been very welcomed by an audience tapping into the careers and lives of let’s say an NWA, or Wu Tang Clan – this documentary film should still go down as one of the most welcomed among hip-hop fans who swear by the likes of Wild Style, Beat Street, Style Wars, Breakin’, Juice, Boyz N Tha Hood and 8 Mile. Most of the film’s features about the group’s rise to fame until their disbanding in 1998 are presented and edited with the ultimate ATCQ soundtrack including songs “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo”, “Can I Kick It?”, “Bonita Applebum”, “Check The Rhime”, “Jazz (We’ve Got)”, “Lyrics To Go”, “Electric Relaxation”, “Stressed Out” and many others with live footage from within the United States and overseas throughout their early years until today.
Both the Sundance Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011 each gave this documentary film ‘Official Selection’. And up next is the L.A. Film Festival on Friday, June 24th, while Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (Sony Pictures Classics) officially hits cinemas in New York and Los Angeles ONLY on July 8, and in other cities with dates TBA. Within the film, there’s some great highlights and insights into Phife’s emotional battle with diabetes, including a life-threatening kidney transplant he endures; Jarobi White’s spiritual role as that on-and-off member of the group who creates such a natural mystic around the group; Q-Tip’s master-wizardry on shaping the group’s soulful, jazzy and magical sound, as well as his wide admiration from the industry’s elite such as Pete Rock, Pharrell Williams, DJ Red Alert, The Roots, Beastie Boys, Prince Paul, Busta Rhymes and many others who’re all featured; heartfelt testimonials from all the members of the entire Native Tongues (Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, Black Sheep, Queen Latifah, Chi-Ali, Monie Love, Leaders of the New School, etc) crew; and pay attention to Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s silent yet steady discourse throughout the entire film contributing his humility, which is something that possibly kept ATCQ together as a group for as long as they were together.