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FILM: “Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest”

by Kil

I’ve had a strange love affair with A Tribe Called Quest over the years. When “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythms” dropped I was like “huh?” What’s up with album title? What does it mean? Why are ya’ll dressed like ya’ll are homeless and what does “I Left My Wallet In El Sugundo” mean?!?! Now don’t get me wrong, there was some dope songs on “People’s Instinctives…” (“Footprints”, “Push It Along”, “Luck of Lucien”) and I absolutely loved “Bonita Applebum” and the “Can I Kick It Remix” with the Baby Huey break but I can’t honestly say I was a Tribe fan. That is, until I heard “Check the Rhyme” and was floored. And when I saw the video and these dudes looked….normal, now I could mess with Tribe. And when “Low End Theory” dropped it was a wrap. I was officially riding with Tribe. And no need to go into the classic status that “Low End Theory” deserves and when “Midnight Maruraders” dropped it just cemented Tribe’s legacy in my eyes. And I can’t begin to tell you how many “drag, down stomp you out” arguments I’ve been in about what album is better, “Low End” or “Marauders” (my vote is Marauders) which is a testament to just how good both albums are.

But after 2 classic albums, just like that, it all fell apart. Phife moved to Atlanta, Ali started A&Ring for Quincy Jone’s Qwest Records and Tip started showing the world who was behind the beats of the first 3 Tribe albums and started producing for the likes of Mobb Deep, Nas, Apache, the Crooklyn Dodgers, Craig Mack, etc. When their fourth studio album “Beats, Rhymes and Life” dropped, I won’t say the album was wack but I will say it was so far from what we ALL had come to expect from Tribe it was crazy. Their 1st single “1nce Again” sounded like a broke “Check the Rhyme”, the beats didn’t have that knock to them (except “Get A Hold”, “The Jam” & “Wordplay”…it’s CRAZY when I hear cats say Dilla was the reason Tribe fell off. I’m scared to hear what their last two albums would’ve sounded like without Dilla!) the chemistry wasn’t there and when, why and how did Tip’s cousin Consequence become part of the group? To say “BRL” was a disappointment is a HUGE understatement. Their 5th album “The Love Movement” wasn’t as bad as the “BRL” but was no where as good as “Midnight” (and I actually like the “Love Movement” except for that HORRIBLE “Give Me” with Nore) but I think every single Tribe fan in the world always wanted to know what really happened with the downfall of A Tribe Called Quest.

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And to make that wish come true, in steps Remy (sorry, I’ll ALWAYS see Michael Rapaport as his character Remy from “Higher Learning”) with his documentary on A Tribe Called Quest called “Beats, Rhymes and Life.” Before I peeped the doc, I was reading MAD comments online in forums, blogs, websites, etc. about how cats weren’t feeling it. Their beef was, where were all the fights and the drama, some cats were going as far to say this doc changed their perspective on Tribe in a negative way so I didn’t know what to expect but after peeping it, I don’t know what cats were talking about cause I LOVED the doc! Remy does a great job of telling the story of the rise and fall of A Tribe Called Quest from the beginnings on Linded Blvd. in Queens, the emergence of Phife’s rhyme on the Low End Theory, Phife and Jarobi’s bond to Barry Weis the CEO of Jive calling Tip “a f-cking nut”, Phife’s health issue, and why Tribe broke up and got back together to tour to break back up again. During the past 5 months there was a lot of hoopla between Remy and the group about executive producer credits and the editing of the doc with fight scenes between Tip and Phife, so if cats had expectations of seeing Tip and Phife rumbling in the middle of Queens Blvd. then yeah, you’ll be disappointed but it’s hard for me to see how any Tribe fan could have beef with this doc. The only beef I got with the doc is after a hour and a half I STILL don’t know what the hell does Jarobi did for Tribe!

After being married for 11 years, some of the best advice I got was from my homegirl’s moms. She told me during your marriage there are gonna be times that you have to put your marriage before yourself. Not just your spouse, but that the marriage is entirely another entity from you and your wife and that the marriage comes first. It’s taken me years to really grasp that concept and I wish all of my favorite hip hop groups could grasp that concept because SO many of the groups I LOVED growing up called it quits. (Tribe, Main Source, Brand Nubians, Pete & CL, EPMD, etc.) And no matter how many seperate solo albums these cats put out, don’t we all just want that reunion album? And the sad part is by the time we finally get it, it’s always too late. The magic is gone. It’s like when I was a kid growing up, I always wanted to see Ric Flair wrestle Hulk Hogan and by the time it actually happened…no one cared. But the dope thing is cats STILL care about a Tribe Called Quest. And what would be better than a new Tribe album to go along with this doc? And with them owing one more album to Jive, maybe we can squeeze one more classic album out of ‘em, what ya’ll think?

4 outta 5