Beats, Rhymes & Life: An Introduction to A Tribe Called Quest

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Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (2011), Michael Rapaport’s raw-but-loving documentary on hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, explores the connections and tensions that led to the group’s formation, ascension, breakup, and numerous reunions. Made up of MCs Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and part-time member Jarobi White, as well as DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad, ATCQ released six albums, numerous singles, and some of the most visually striking videos in hip hop. They remain one of the genre’s most eclectic, beloved, and influential acts, and the film is acutely aware of this, featuring appearances by some of hip hop’s most well-known and important artists, including ?uestlove, all three members of the Beastie Boys, Kanye West, and De La Soul.

Released before the group’s final outing in 2015 (and before the tragic passing of founding member Phife Dawg in 2016), the documentary gives viewers insight into the group’s dynamic, their philosophies, and their creative process, including Tip’s production methods. We witness Phife’s struggles with diabetes (which sadly contributed to his passing in 2016); the pitfalls of fame, and stardom; Q-Tip’s perfectionism; the end of their creative chemistry by 1996’s Beats, Rhymes and Life; their eventual breakup after the release of The Love Movement (1998); and their subsequent reformation (and breakup. And reformation. This happens a lot. The personalities are strong, to say the least).

While Rapaport, known mostly for his acting and podcasting duties, is clearly infatuated with his subjects, respect is also given where respect is due: ATCQ’s collaborators and (famous) fans contribute to the group’s story, and in return, the members of ATCQ recognize and honour their own influences, including parents, early supporters, and those they sampled.
Anyone who loves hip hop (or, you know, music in general) is undoubtedly aware of these albums and songs, but for those of you who are not, this collection takes some of the band’s most popular songs, and mixes in some under-appreciated gems. I included their 2016 album We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, which was released after the death of Phife Dawg. The two-disc set showcases the group’s unwavering experimental tendencies, and deserves to be held in the same high regard as their early ’90s output. The group honoured Phife Dawg’s legacy by touring one last time behind the album, after which they officially disbanded. I never got a chance to see them, but their legacy lives on through the music. Enjoy it. There’s truly nothing quite like it.

Read the full article by Marko Djurdjic: