It's taken me a long time to actually want to sit down and write anything about the Beats, Rhymes & Life A Tribe Called Quest documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this past weekend. This is mainly because, if you're anything like me, ATCQ provided some of the greatest memories of my formative years. Not simply because their first three albums changed the course of hip hop no matter what region of the country or globe you happened to hail from, but also because their musical progressions in many instances mirrored our own life progressions. It's for that reason that I became saddened when I heard that Phife Dawg was not only the only member from Tribe to be present at the premiere but became emotional when discusssing the internal strife that has ended one of the best hip hop groups to have ever graced a stage.
Back when we alerted you all to the trailer for Beats, Rhymes, & Life--which was quickly taken down--we couldn't have been happier. For many of my generation who have fond memories of The Golden Age Of Hip Hop, ATCQ took every concept within this time and ran with it, creating in the process something that was uniquely innovative and accessible and good. Fast forward to the present, with talk to ATCQ being broken up, tension between group members and childhood friends Q-Tip and Phife, and Q-Tip, according to the film's director Michael Rapaport, expressing first praise then disdain at the finished product, it breaks my heart just a little bit. I am totally aware of the result that burgeoning egos can cause within a group of talented people whose initial focus was simply to make great music and maybe get a little money from it.
This past weekend after the Sundance premiere, Phife was asked what his motivation was to want to be involved in the film. Beginning at 2:08, Phife becomes overcome with emotion, rests his head on the podium, and states in part "I wish the rest of them were here...Q-Tip has no idea how many people love him."
Although Rapaport explained to New York Magazine that he made arrangements for two first class tickets and hotel arrangements for Q-Tip and oft-forgotten member Jairobi to come to Sundance--Ali Shaheed Muhammed (who issued this statement) was unable to attend due to a prior engagement in Europe-- they never showed despite his hope that they might attend. Phife did admit that he had reservations about attending the premiere as well upon further introspection and a little motherly wisdom, he decided to pay heed to his mother's words:
You better go and enjoy this, because it's something that doesn't happen every day. It's a movie about your guys' life and your music and your legacy. The least you could do is enjoy it.
Amen to that.
Despite this film's chronicling of this beloved groups' accomplishments and antagonism, the fact remains that, much like Phife's mother stated, this is an opportunity that doesn't come along everyday for generations such as ours. The members of ATCQ may not be in agreement over the film's portrayal of their relationships in the movie, but I have no problem enjoying this documentary for them. No word yet on when or if the film will be released, but I guarantee that I will not be the only person wanting to greedily consume the finished product.