I wasn’t sure when I was gonna get around to reviewing this documentary, but I knew after watching it that I’d need to write about it. Today I’m going to talk about the 2011 documentary based on the hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest entitled Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest. Now I’ve only watched it twice, but after my second viewing recently it’s left a massive impression on me and I feel compelled to talk about it on my blog so let’s get started!
Here’s the synopsis for the documentary:
“Having forged a 20-year run as one of the most innovative and influential hip hop bands of all time, the Queens NY collective known as ‘A Tribe Called Quest’ have kept a generation hungry for more of their groundbreaking music since their much publicized breakup in 1998. Michael Rapaport documents the inner workings and behind the scenes drama that follows the band to this day. He explores what’s next for, what many claim, are the pioneers of alternative rap.”
Now for me this was a very insightful documentary, A Tribe Called Quest have been noted as one of the most influential groups in the hip-hop genre and I’d only gotten into their music in recent years due to my search for older music from the 80s and 90s. I am more familiar with Q-Tip’s solo work on his Renaissance album, and when my uncle heard that he recommended this Quest documentary and it honestly opened my eyes to a whole new world about this group and the hip-hop genre.
A Tribe Called Quest made up of four members, MC/producer Q-Tip, MC Phife Dawg aka Phife Diggy (Malik Taylor), and DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad and rapper Jarobi White. I’ve always had an appreciation for this group since hearing “Can I Kick It?” back in the 90s and in my late teens “Award Tour” and “Electric Relaxation” were tunes I fell in love with, but this documentary just made me feel a strong addiction to the group and their music. Like when I watched No Distance Left To Run or Marley, this is a documentary covers everything from the beginning to present day. It doesn’t seem to leave any stone unturned, we get the perspective of not only the members of A Tribe Called Quest, but also several different artists, radio DJs, producers and managers some of which were there to recall their memories of their past with Quest or talk about the group’s influence. It’s very cool and incredible to learn about the group from a very personal point of view and see why they’re such a big deal in the hip-hop world.
We see a lot of Quest’s lives from their schools to their different tours and connections with other hip-hop groups and artists. One thing I never knew about was the formation of the Native Tongues with Jungle Brothers and De La Soul along with the additional members that came at the time. That seemed like one of the coolest things ever and only looks like one of those kinds of things you could have done back in the 90s when hip-hop was transforming and becoming something special and amazing. It was a movement and something that the hip-hop hasn’t seen since back then. The direction is wonderful, Michael Rapoport knows exactly what he’s doing and gets a great deal of information out of the group. I also want to mention the visual presentation too, there is a great animated introduction sequence and some lovely transitions used that look fabulous.
While this documentary is about everything to do with the Quest, there is also a specific focus on the relationship between Q-Tip and Phife Dawg. I never knew that the two of them were so close and that there was such a deep fragmented relationship between them, this film documents their friendship, conflicts and their separation and how it affected the group internally. It is some intense, dramatic and painful stuff, and for me who didn’t grow up following the group it was a surprising thing to see. You really feel bad for not only Ali would really is just in the middle of all that drama, but also as a fan who knows how great they are and to see the conflict between the two great rappers.
But outside of the drama between Q-Tip and Phife, it’s great to see how the group formed and how their sound changed from album to album. Before watching this I was only familiar with the group’s first and third albums, but this documentary made me come to appreciate the awesomeness that is their second album, The Low End Theory. And since we’re on the subject of music I just have to say that the music selection in this documentary is incredible, it is littered with Quest songs everywhere along with music from other hip-hop artists too and the way it’s used is beautiful, relevant and nostalgic. There are tunes from De La Soul to Jungle Brothers, Donald Byrd to The New Birth and even “Life Is Better” by Q-Tip and Norah Jones makes an appearance which is personal favourite song of mine.
In conclusion Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest is another documentary for me to add to my collection that I really love and wish to recommend to anyone who is a lover of hip-hop music. It really does give you great insight into the groups lives and the contributors they got for this film are also fantastic, it all makes for some dramatic, emotional and addictive stuff.
Rating: 9.5/10 (Any fan of the Quest or hip-hop in general should check this out)
So have you seen Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest? If so what did you think of it? Whatever your thoughts drop them in the comment section below and I’ll see ya on the next review yo! 😀