Words by Matthew Schuchman
- A social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.
- A Family.
The fact of the matter is: the hip hop outfit, A Tribe Called Quest was and still is one of the most influential groups of the genre. For some it was their lyrics that changed the game, for others it was their unique blend of jazz infused hip hop, and for some it was their style and the way they represented a generation of backpackers who related to their rhymes.
Now, actor Michael Rapaport (an avid hip hop fan and A Tribe Called Quest enthusiast) has hit the scene with his directorial debut, “Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travles of A Tribe Called Quest.” The movie takes an extensive look at the meteoric rise of the group, the relationships among the groups members, and includes a tour documentary portion. There’s also the (somewhat necessary) quick class on the history of hip hop. This project originally started as a tour video, as Rapaport wanted to make the definitive rap concert video, something both he and we still don’t think exists. Rapaport gained intimate access to the group when they re-formed to play the Rock The Bells tour in 2008, but as time went on (and especially after a tense incident backstage at one show) the film began to become something else.
We don’t know what Rapaport’s concert film would’ve been like, but what he ended up with is an amazing look into the world of the band dynamic. Like “Boogie Nights,” this film explores the workings of a family in the non-traditional sense. Q-tip is the enigmatic though possibly reluctant leader; head strong and controlling. Phife Dawg is the younger brother who always feels like he is trying to fight his way out of the shadows of his older sibling; he is also a comic genius (whether it’s intentional or not, we’re not sure of). Ali Shaheed Muhammad is the quiet observer who doesn’t want to overbalance one side of an argument but still keeps things tied down. And finally, there’s Jarobi White, the nomadic member who is never really there, but pops in when it counts.
While the film focus’ mainly on the unsteady relationship between Q-tip and Phife Dawg, it still closely investigates the inner workings of the family unit. These men may have spans of time where they never talk and still have unresolved issues, but they will always be a family, they will always care for each other and they will always be a tribe. With plenty of cuts from “Beats, Rhymes, and Life” and original music by Madlib, this film has something for everyone to enjoy. If you don’t care so much about the family nucleus, you have the music. If you don’t like the music, you have a fantastic look at the way any group of people interact with each other. If you happen to like both, then you have the best documentary to come out this year…