This past weekend Arclight Theatres showcased the long awaited documentary, “Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest” to a throng of hip hop fans, myself included. Most of us sat in silence, mouths open as we soaked in the 95-minute film that gave the background of and made an attempt to explain the division amongst the legendary hip hop group. We also got a bang for our buck when it was announced that ATCQ member, Phife Dawg and the film’s director, Michael Rapaport were there for a Q&A afterwards.
For a true Tribe fan the documentary does not disappoint. Learning how the group formed, chose their name, why Jarobi is the ghost member, the inspiration behind some of their greatest hits, and who the key players were in their success was more than any hip hop head could ask for. Further, we heard all of it from the members themselves and the nation of musicians that surrounded them during their hey day. We also got a perspective of why the group dissolved in the first place, and the amount of bitterness that exists between members of the group who have known each other their entire lives, pointedly Q-Tip the Abstract and Phife Dawg.
However, my ears perked up during the Q&A with Phife and Rapaport when one audience member went on a 4-minute diatribe about a recent article in the LA Weekly. I couldn’t make out his argument exactly thanks to all the audience boos and jeers, but it was clear Mr. Rapaport had no desire to touch on the topic then and there. He told us all, “Read LA Weekly. It’s in there.”
So I did. It turns out there was a reason only Phife Dawg was in attendance to the documentary that night, and for the most part has been the only member of the group in constant support of it. According to the story, a producer on the film accidentally sent an email with Q-Tip copied on it expressing a desire to keep the entire group out of receiving production credits for the film. Rapaport himself admits that the group is not legally entitled to any producer credits, though he has verbally agreed to give them a percentage. Additionally, the slant of the film, and decisions made about the music selection for the film were not agreed upon by the group. As such, Q-Tip, Jarobi, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad have not been in full support of the documentary’s release, speaking out about it on MTV (see clips below). However, they support fans seeing the documentary because of the music history lesson it presents.
The Arclight was packed on Friday night for its first showing and with a crowd lined up outside for the next showing. Between its limited screenings and DVD sales, the documentary stands to make a killing and I wonder how much of its proceeds the group will actually see. Nonetheless, this is a MUST-SEE for all real music heads. Rapaport’s redemption here is that he put together a quality documentary on hip-hop and encapsulated a bit of Black music history in a way Black folks can be proud of. Ironic that he’s the one to do it – but what else is new?