It’s hard for me to review Beats, Rhymes and Life because of how the documentary made me feel. Every time I started to piece together what I would write about this movie, I got lost in my feelings of nostalgia for A Tribe Called Quest and being a hip-hop fan in the 90’s. A Tribe Called Quest was my favorite hip-hop group growing up. This was probably the first documentary I saw where I found myself either saying to myself, “I remember that” or “I did that” or “I remember what I was doing then.” There’s a scene where ?uestlove talks about the date Midnight Marauders was released and I thought about a recent post I wrote about cutting art class to buy it and listening to it on the bus ride home. I remember trying to tape the Red Alert show to catch the newest shit (seeing how old Red Alert looked now made me feel real old).There were magazines I owned, photo shoots I remember, concerts I wished I had gotten a chance to attend. This was a cinematic trip down memory lane.
As a fan of Tribe Called Quest, it was sad to see Q-Tip and Phife go at it while Ali Shaheed Muhammad and sometimes Jarobi just watched and shook their heads but I’m glad I did see it. When they broke up, I always knew there was some conflict but not to the extent that we saw (although there was a lot of he said/he said).
I think Michael Rappaport did a great job for a first time director (some of his camera angles and lingering close-ups showed his inexperience). There were things I wish were discussed (“Scenario”, more on how the Midnight Mauraderscover came together, the origin of the red, green and black woman on the album covers) but I’m just nitpicking. This was a great love letter to the group and to 90’s hip-hop culture as a whole and can’t wait to see it again.