Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Story of A Tribe Called Quest is a documentary film directed by Michael Rapaport about one of music’s most influential and groundbreaking pioneers in hip hop. The story is told by the members themselves as they reunite after two years during the 2008 Rock the Bells tour to deliver sold out performances. On the tour they re-discover that their own personal differences may overpower their love for the group, countless, hard-core fans, and its ability to survive the pressures of fame, the record industry, and simply pursuing other interests in life. Rapaport, himself a hard core Tribe fan from the first album, panics when Q-Tip tells him “this could be the last show” after mounting tension erupted at the event in San Francisco. Thus, begins a journey to go back and appreciate the huge contributions made by Tribe to the “whole structure of hip hop” as stated by Amir from The Roots, one of the many artists in the film influenced by Tribe’s unique sampling and layering of obscure jazz loops mixed with hip hop beats, as well as their playful but clever lyrics. Chronicles told of songs like “Scenario” and “Check The Rhime” paint a vivid picture of what it was like coming up in Queens as young folks living and breathing hip hop in the early nineties.
A New York native, Rapaport’s lifelong, genuine love for hip hop helps achieve intimate, all access interviews and cinema verite style filmmaking over the course of the 8 months of filming. Rarely heard stories told by New York’s legendary DJ Red Alert, Native Tongues members like Monie Love, the Jungle Brothers, Busta Rhymes, and De La Soul bring an intimacy to the days when young artists discovered the freedom of artistic intelligence, being who they wanted to be and refusing the box of gangster rap and negative stereotypes. Other voices in the film include the Beastie Boys, Kanye West and Pharrell. Serendipitously, Rapaport’s film brings forth a conversation for members of the group to deal with the trials and tribulations they have faced over the years. As Q-Tip receives critical acclaim for his latest album, Phife is recovering from a kidney transplant and coaching youth basketball, Ali Shaheed is producing hit records and dj’ing across the country, and Jarobi plans to open a restaurant in Atlanta. The idea of getting back together and going on tour reminds everyone why Rock the Bells was an exception—only it’s the fans who are left thirsty for more. And this is nowhere more evident than in Rapaport himself whose die-hard love and respect for Tribe Called Quest is revealed in every part of this journey.