Sunday, July 31, 2011

Beats Rhymes & Life - the film on ATCQ

Took in this documentary on 90s hip hop pioneers A Tribe Called Quest with DJ IKvsDK on a balmy sunday afternoon at Dundas Square. The film is the first by Michael Rapaport and succeeds in providing a perspective on this key member of the Native Tongues hip hop movements.

The doc is organized chronological, starting with a few childhood remembrances of Q-Tip and Phife Dawg and progressing through to high school where they meet the Jungle Brothers and get their first big contact in DJ Red Alert.

The group gains some profile with Bonita Applebaum but it's the release of their second album, Low End Theory, (with tracks like Buggin' Out) that blows up.

The follow up Midnight Marauders (with tracks like Electric Relaxation) was also well-received but the next two releases are less so and the band dissolved after the fifth album.

The doc does a decent job of balancing the perspectives of the two central figures Phife and Q-Tip. Pacing is very consistent. The visuals start with some interesting animation effects but this is replaced midway with a barrage of interview clips.

There was a good mix of contemporaries (Prince Paul, De La Soul, Beastie Boys, Busta Rhymes, etc.) as well as next generation (Pharrell Williams, Common, The Roots, etc.) giving their perspective. There are hints that more material is available and hopefully the full director's cut will make this available. Good job!

Memorable segments:

Q-Tip with the Lonnie Smith album
Jarobi on Phife Dawg
Phife Dawg and Wife
Candid talk from De La Soul after the 2008 Ring the Bells tour
Pharrell Williams with his unabashed respect for ATCQ

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