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A Tribe Called Quest, Film, Hip Hop, NYC

Review: Beats, Rhymes & Life

Lights flash disco-style on a middle-aged Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad as the three harmonize in front of a pumped audience for the 2008 Rock the Bells Festival. The crowd is hyped. The camera pans across an audience of bobbing heads and swaying arms.

This is how the new documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, directed by actor Michael Rapaport, opens. Despite the controversy that has threatened to eclipse this new film — reports surfaced that Q-Tip didn’t attend the Sundance premiere in protest of the project — the scandal likely won’t hurt the project, instead doing the opposite, as die-hard hip-hop fans will want to draw conclusions independently.

The film makes an earnest effort to give the legendary hip-hop quartet its props, while critically looking at reasons for the band’s breakup. Though group member Jarobi White is a part of the cast, it’s revealed that his real passion is culinary arts, paring the group down to a threesome: Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

Candid scenes reveal Kamal “Q-Tip” Fareed’s outsized ego, his perfectionist leanings and ambition that eventually spark a petty beef between Q-Tip and Phife Dawg that Rapaport captures dramatically on film backstage at the Rock the Bells Festival.

In truth, Beats is a documentary within a documentary.

The 98-minute documentary film is evenly split. The first half of the film establishes the history — how ATCQ met, where they went to school, how they got their start. The early footage — interviews, early concerts, house parties — recreate the early days of hip-hop pre-stardom. The second half of the film is more exposé, however, focusing on the internal tension within the group that ultimately causes their fall.

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About Abdul Ali

I'm a fellow at American University studying creative nonfiction and poetry. I write across a few genres but it's all brought together by larger questions about culture.

Discussion

One thought on “Review: Beats, Rhymes & Life

  1. Hello. magnificent job. I did not anticipate this. This is a remarkable story. Thanks!

    Posted by Frank Littlefield | August 12, 2011, 11:58 AM

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