Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest
When a Tribe Called Quest emerged from Queens in the 1980s, there wasn't another hip-hop outfit that sounded exactly like them. Their unique mix of jazz, funk, and creatively conscious lyrics struck a chord, but 10 years later, they called it a day. In his first feature, actor/filmmaker Michael Rapaport, a native New Yorker, charts their history, celebrates their success, and tries to figure out what went wrong. He starts with their origins "on the boulevard of Linden" before turning to Phife Dawg's move to Atlanta and the Rock the Bells Tour, for which they reunited, only to fall apart again.
The group members, including Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jabroni White, tell the story in their own words, while admirers, like De La Soul and the Roots, testify to their impact. With editorial assistance from director A.J. Schnack (Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns), Rapaport focuses on the relationship between Phife and Q-Tip, who share the same sort of yin and yang chemistry that has fueled legendary acts from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin. A "funky diabetic" in casual garb, Phife enjoys sports as much as music, while the dapper Q-Tip can't imagine doing anything else. The two have even differed over the film; while Phife has helped to promote it, Q-Tip has been publicly dismissive, but Rapaport is about as fair as a dispirited fan can be, and he concludes with an engagement in Japan where the two put their egos aside--at least for a few hours. --Kathleen C. Fennessy