The first time I saw Tribe play was just before their initial break up. Man I'll never forget that day. Michael Franti, Outkast, Fugees, Busta Rhymes, Cypress Hill, Ziggy Marley & ATCQ all graced the stage that afternoon at the inaugural Smoking Grooves Tour and to this day that show would be in my all time top 10 lineups I've ever been blessed enough to witness with my own two eyes.
Ironically it was around this period the films director Mr. Rapaport first had the idea to make a true school musical documentary about a group he and most other hip hop heads world wide (myself included) considered to be The Beatles or Rolling Stones of their respected generation and culture. I agree that the time is looooong past due to start sharing what is now the fully developed and ingrain artistic expression of Hip Hop, born in New York, and brought to the masses world wide. If there was one thing made absolutely clear about this film, it's this: Hip Hop, in no way shape or form, would be where it is today with out there 4 incredibly gifted individuals and their endless contributions pushing the craft forward.
The documentary flows as to be expected, diving deep into the groups roots the film explores the life long friend ship between the two lead vocalists Q-tip & Phife Dog. Seeing them as children in church choir really gives you a sense of just how much a family a music group can be. Anyone who has ever been in a band or hip hop group is sure to be able to relate to the peaks and pits falls that come when brewing a batch of dreams in a collectively run kitchen. (I know I can...) Moving forward the film highlights the addition of Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White to the fold and helps the viewer understand just how ATCQ sound was fully formed. I never really understood Jarobi's role in the group till seeing this film and hearing about how he was the spiritual and energetic backbone of the group. I think the first half would be my favorite as it focused more on the fun and excitement that goes into making music before all the industry and business angles become involved. The first half also covers the assembly of The Native Tongues one of the cultures biggest and most progressive crews ever. De La Soul, Brand Nubian, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah and more teamed with Tribe to help redefine what Hip Hop could be.
The second half of the film takes a darker turn as it looks at the group multiple break up and reunions, Phife's falling health and the ongoing struggle to keep the group as one solid unit. This section was a little hard for me to watch in part because I worked in Kidney Dialysis for a few years and have seen first hand how hard the treatment can be for both the patient and their families. I don't want to say to much about the second half as I feel like this is a side less seen to fans and I'm not trying to spill the beans. But I will say my eye's watered, my head nodded and I had a smile ear to ear by the end of the film.
I won't say this is a masterpiece from a directorial standpoint but it was solid overview of ATQC journeys. As a old school hip hop head and life long tribe fan I couldn't be happier that this film was made and its obvious Mr. Rapaport put his whole heart into making this happen. Peanut Butter Wolf did a great job with the movie score which never made a wrong turn and I can see him playing this role again and again in Hollywood. How dope would it be to see a blockbuster film with him at the musical helm?
If your souls ever grooved to a 4/4 rhythm you should check out Beats, Rhymes & Life The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest. Make sure to catch it on the big screen when it rolls into your city or town, after all who knows when or if the group will ever tour the states again. For anyone thats never got to see them rip a mic this might be a close as you'll ever get to having an all access V.I.P. pass.
Who know what the future holds for these 4 muses who's music has influenced me and my generation more than could ever be put into words. ATCQ has left a footprint that won't be filled anytime soon and every artist should strive to capture the spirit of what they've left behind. I know I do.