Movie Review – “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest”


This Friday, the critically acclaimed A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) documentary opened in Minneapolis, and I caught a screening with my women’s group.

Here’s the synopsis:

Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest is a documentary film directed by Michael Rapaport about one of the most influential and groundbreaking musical groups in hip-hop history. Having released five gold and platinum selling albums within eight years, A Tribe Called Quest has been one of the most commercially successful and artistically significant musical groups in recent history, and regarded as iconic pioneers of hip hop. The band’s sudden break-up in 1998 shocked the industry and saddened the scores of fans, whose appetite for the group’s innovative musical stylings never seems to diminish. A hard-core fan himself, Rapaport sets out on tour with A Tribe Called Quest in 2008, when they reunited to perform sold-out concerts across the country, almost ten years after the release of their last album, The Love Movement. As he travels with the band members (Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White), Rapaport captures the story of how their personal differences and unresolved conflicts continue to be a threat to their creative cohesion. When mounting tensions erupt backstage during a show in San Francisco, we get a behind-the-scenes look at their journey and contributions as a band and what currently is at stake for these long-time friends and collaborators. Official Web Site

I first heard about this film when Q-Tip and Phife went on MTV to air out their grievances about the film & the creative control that was not granted by the director, Michael Rapaport. The next thing I heard was how fricking amazing this film was. I gotta admit, I was very skeptical – I mean, Michael Rappaport, the White guy who is always trying to be “down” is doing a film about one of the greatest rap groups of all-time? I don’t know about that…So I went into the film hoping it would be great…

Beats, Rhymes & Life takes the viewer through the entire history of ATCQ – from childhood, to how they all met, the beginnings of their rap careers, through fame, internal beefs within the group, health problems & more. I learned A TON that I didn’t know thanks to this film. I consider myself a fan of ATCQ, but I never knew the history of the group or really tried to learn it. I learned so many things I didn’t know, both about ATCQ & also about hip-hop, especially during those formative years of the 80’s.  There’s a ton of great interviews in the film, from artists that were involved with ATCQ and artists that simply admired them & were inspired by their work.

The interviews with each member of ACTQ was the best part of this film. The interviews are all done 1-on-1, and so you really see each member share their point of view. This is especially important when Q-Tip & Phife each give their side of their beef, which famously culminated in Phife not speaking Q-Tip while they were on tour. Through the interviews you can really see each person’s viewpoint on their beef, as well as the unfortunate middleman position that Ali Shaheed Muhammad is placed in.

BTW, when did Ali Shaheed Muhammad get so fine? He looked yummy delicious in the he married? (not a joke btw). Q-Tip looks great too, he’s aged very well.

Overall, I loved every minute of this 98 minute film. I sang along, I danced in my seat, I laughed, and I learned a lot. I was touched, especially during the parts where Phife talks about his illness & you can see the effects it has had on him & his body. I was really worried that Michael Rapaport was gonna butcher this story, but instead, what he produced was an intimate portrayal of a group that continues to have fans & inspire people around the world.

It was dope, so if you’re a fan of ATCQ, I highly recommend you check it out, if you haven’t already.

Have you seen Beats, Rhymes & Life? What did you think?

  • Monique R

    I havent’ seen this yet but I am making my way to a theater to check it out. 

  • Angelike72000

    I found it funny when I read your comment about Ali Shaheed Muhammad, cause I was thinking that throughout the entire movie that this man is fine  I really enjoyed the movie.

    • Pinckney33

      Girl!! Speak on it!! He was so peaceful! He is the glue of the group! The fine peacemaker!

  • Dionne

    Ali Shaheed Muhammad looks so good.  A little dental work has done a lot.

  • Kstrick2

    Oh my! I was SO thinking the same thing! Yummy yummy yummy! He is gorgeous!

  • Pinckney33

    You know what, I just saw this documentary four days ago and I fell back in love with the group. Oh what fond memories it rekindled!! I was so amused with that trip down memory lane…also I was BLOWN AWAY by how exclusively fine Ali Shaheed Muhammad is as well! BOY OH BOY! Life is good to him! I need prayer cause I’m on him…lol!!
    But the most phenomenal aspect of the movie is Phife Dawg’s wife!! CAN SOMEBODY SAY REAL LOVE… sang it Mary! (btw, Mary J, did hug on Ali a lil long…shoot Mary see that jewel).
    But yes, Phife’e wife…AMAZING WOMAN OF GOD! That is just LOVE…she so loved her husband that she gave him her KIDNEYYYYY! my my my GOD! I loves it! Anyway the documentary…I must own it. It will be in my personal collection