"Can I kick it?" No matter who asks the question, if you're a Hip Hop fan, there's really only one right answer, and documentary, "Beats, Rhymes, & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest" shows us why. But don't let the word "travels" fool you. This IS NOT A Tribe Called Quest on an "Award Tour"; this doc is about their travels through life.
Told through the lens of passionate hip hop fan and actor turned director, Michael Rapaport, the approach to the subject matter begins inquisitively. Who, what, when, where, and of course, why. But much of the film is centered around why Tribe as a group and music force came to an end in the late 90s.
As a fan and the director, Rapaport understood what audiences wanted most--that's Tribe itself. Most of the interviews are with Tribe members, Phife, Q-Tip, Jarobi, and Ali Shaheed, not journalistic commentators on the outside looking in. Even their music peers, old and new, from DJ Red Alert to Pharrell, only speak to Tribe's influence and impact on hip hop music and culture. That's a refreshing approach to "keeping it real" as a documentarian, and not making a PR piece for the group or any label.
So we're taken back to where it all began on New York City's Linden Boulevard then shown how four childhood friends became the iconic, world renown hip hop group, A Tribe Called Quest. For those of us that remember not just the music of the early 90s, but the culture that was being birthed then through hip hop, you'll instinctively reflect on the impact it had on you personally.
As the Tribe members tell their individual stories, you'll begin to understand how collectively things changed, some for the good and some for the bad. You'll see what happens when a group of four talented teens become men on and off stage--childhood friendships are constantly tested, motivations change, decisions of life and health have to be made. And Rapaport pulls fans in as close as outsiders can get to Tribe's internal dramas.
Overall "Beats, Rhymes, & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest" is insightful, creatively produced, and pays homage to the music. But is it worthy of Q-Tip's public criticism? That's for audiences to decide, and yes, when the credits roll so will opinions of Tribe fans.
One problem I have with the film is there's so much focus on Phife and Q-Tip, we don't get a true sense of the collaborative efforts Tip speaks to in the film. And THAT does create some criticism, but Jarobi and Ali haven't expressed publicly any concerns. So I'll leave it alone. As Rapaport alludes to in the interview below, we may get more of Ali and Jarobi on the upcoming DVD.
"Beats, Rhymes, & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest" hits theaters this JULY 8TH in Los Angeles and New York. So visit the official website for release dates in your city. To prepare you for what you're going to see, take a listen to the UNEDITED press interviews with Phife Dawg and Michael Rapaport. There's JEWELS OF INFO about the group, the doc, and music in them and as a fan of Tribe AND hip hop, I didn't want to cut anything out! As you'll hear, I had to jump in like double dutch to get some questions in!
Here's Phife Dawg:
And director, Michael Rapaport: