“Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” Movie Review

Spoiler Alert! A rhythm recipe that you’ll savor. Doesn’t matter if you’re minor or major. For almost everyone who was growing up in the 1990s, there’s a special place in our hearts for the evolution of hip hop as an art form.  If hip hop were born in the ’80s, simple but straight up, honest if not humorously raw, then the 1990s were the teen and young adult years.  The years when hip hop started to spread its wings, push the boundaries and make up new rules to live by.  The years where we started to take hip hop very flippin’ seriously.

The boys of Tribe were also teens and young adults coming up in the late 80s and early 90s, redefining the way Americans looked at race, rhymes, strength, conviction and artistry. Michael Rappaport’s film is a sincerely intimate delve into the formation and the ensuing success of this legendary group, and then the realities of life that inevitably set in.  The film does not tell the predictable sex-drugs-rock-n-roll story of decadence that usually follows our stars, but explores the realities of miscommunication, the struggle for identity and control, and the imperfection of the human body.

From Q-tip and Phife Dawg’s disintegrating childhood friendship, to Phife’s struggle with his health, Rappaport spares no details.  At one point we are backstage at their Rock the Bells reunion tour in 2008 and Phife has been giving Tip the silent treatment for so long that the palpable tension erupts into a hot and bothered shouting match.  Dj Ali just remains silently caught in the middle of the unhealthy triangle.In other, very sobering moments, we face the reality that Phife desperately needs a kidney transplant and finds a donor in what is the most genuinely tear-jerking love story I’ve seen in a long time. (Seriously, if you’re like me you really will cry.)

April 26, 2011 - Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images North America

We all know that bands come and go and relationships change and sometimes fall apart. People are imperfect and don’t live forever.  But truly what lasts is talent. The film is a funky love song to Tribe and the music that helped make us who we are.The last thing to flash across the screen at the conclusion of the film is a hopeful and almost tongue-in-cheek line about how the group still owes one last album to Jive Records. Here’s to hoping…

For the cats in DC, you can (and should) catch this flick at the E Street Cinema. That’s all for now vivrant things!

–Aimee

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One thought on ““Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” Movie Review

  1. Pingback: Marley at E Street Cinema | Dewing Divine

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