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One of the most pioneering and beloved groups of all-time, A Tribe Called Quest seminally defined the sound of an early-’90s New York hip-hop scene that reverberated across the nation. Formed in 1985 by Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White, Tribe melded jazz-infused musicscapes and Afrocentric rhymes with bass-heavy rhythmic vibes, eclectic sampling, and intelligent lyrics addressing social and political issues with infectious energy.
Acclaimed actor Michael Rapaport (Zebrahead, Mighty Aphrodite) paints a remarkably personal portrait of the characters behind the group’s sonic genius through their five albums, their highly publicized breakup in 1998, and beyond. Emotionally honest and forthright interviews with group members are intercut with electrifying footage of live performances, music videos from back in the day, and commentary from Common, Busta Rhymes, Mary J. Blige, De La Soul, Kanye West, Common, Mos Def, Ludacris, and the Beastie Boys. Whether or not A Tribe Called Quest will create another record remains a questionâ€”but the group’s profound contribution to musical history and unparalleled artistic success undisputedly blazed a trail for future generations.
They don’t have final cut. I don’t think in a documentary as intimate as this â€“ as emotional, as personal as it is â€“ that the people it’s about should have a say. It’s hard for them to have perspective,” Rapaport told Rolling Stone.
That said, â€œBeats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Questâ€ is a great story about a great band that was at the heart of a movement that left an indelible stamp on popular music and still has heads bouncing all around the world 15 years removed from their heyday.