A Tribe Called Quest has a legend that proceeds them. The influential group – one of the first to blend jazz samples with the self-described abstract, poetic raps about everything from a beautiful Bonita Applebum to leaving a wallet in El Segundo – has had an indelible influence on the likes of Kanye West, Pharrell and Common. Since the band’s inception in 1989 and five hit albums, the trio from Queens was overdue for the documentary treatment.
Actor Michael Rapaport, after meeting Q-Tip about 15 years ago, was the one to do it. In “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest,” he shows a group that, from their teenage years, had a strong artistic bond.
“The biggest surprise was that Q-Tip and Phife had known each other since they were like four years old,” Rapaport explains. “When you’re friends with somebody for that long, there’s ups and downs and when you’re in a group, the group takes on a life of its own.”
Rapaport is referring to the tensions between Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, who in the film clash during their 2008 tour. Since then, the group has had a falling out with Rapaport and the producers over the content of the film and some unfortunate interpersonal emails (google it). Rapaport is working on healing the wounds of that and he hopes the group will be back on board to promote the film when it comes out in July 2011.
“It’s been a little frustrating for everybody but I think that we’ll get there and I would like to see the group get the accolades and get the first-hand feeling about how the film’s received,” Rapaport says. “I want to be on good terms with them. I don’t want to taint their legacy and I don’t feel totally comfortable and proud of some of the stuff that’s happened in the press. I really adore Tribe Called Quest and I’ve always been a fan of them.”