I finally got my hands on a copy of Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest. The documentary film by Michael Rapaport follows Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi, and the story behind one of the most ground-breaking groups in hip-hop — from their beginnings in Queens, New York, to their rise to success in the early 90’s, and to their break-up in 1998 that shocked the industry.
I do not think I have enough positive adjectives in my vocabulary to articulate how much I loved this documentary. I’ve been a fan of ACTQ ever since I heard ‘Bonita Applebum‘. It was the beat — so chill, so what-is-this??… and I found the title funny — I was only 5 or 6 at the time (real mature). It wasn’t new, but it was played a lot. And I loved it. I was hooked. When The Fugees came out with Killing Me Softly in 1996, all I could think was — “HEY it’s Bonita Applebum!”
I discovered more of their music only after their break-up, maybe a decade after I first heard if them, when I had a falling out with pop music and my preferences started to evolve. It was quite a disappointment that they were not making music together anymore, but their classics — Excursion, Scenario, Can I Kick It, Check The Rhime, and Electric Relaxation, among many others — are untouchable.
I was one of those people that continued to follow Q-Tip in his solo ventures. The film made me appreciate him so much more as a producer. It’s rare to hear of producers that still stick to the basics in cutting tracks and making beats. He does his research, still looks for and samples in vinyl (dooope), and samples anything and everything to make a mix original.
The film was not only a tribute to (probably) the best hip-hop group in our time, but it also gave much more insight and clarity to the back stories of each of the members. It’s not often that fans have that kind of access with their favorite artists. Most times it’s what we see and hear from the media, and not from the artists themselves. The way everything came together really deepened my appreciation for the group, despite each of their differences. Props to Michael Rapaport for capturing scenes and editing footage in a way that made all their issues transparent and fair.
You’ll also see cameos from other artists in the industry — De La Soul, Native Tongues, The Beastie Boys, Pete Rock, Common, Pharell Williams, Busta Rhymes,Black Thought, QuestLove and many more.
Any one that loves hip-hop should see this documentary. It’s a raw, entertaining, trip-down memory lane Linden.