A Tribe Called Quest Documentary Masterfully Crafted, Disastrously Tragic Tale

Last week, the documentary Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest released to select theaters in ATL, so - like clockwork - here's a look at how the film unfolded.

You get more than just a bland VH1's Behind The Music, Google-able content-having look at the hiphop group A Tribe Called Quest. This wasn't a "Where Are They Now?!" flick either. Nor is it a fluffy "I love this group, please, please come back" news-lacking joint either. The documentary is for everyone - from ATCQ lovers to those who are looking at the aforementioned acronym confused - that tells the tragic tale of what the hell happened to the legendary Low End Theory creators.

Finally, a music doc with complementary visuals! Normally, most music documentary makers will give you an interview, old photo montages and concert scenes and a scene from what the artist is doing now with no additional visuals and an aspiration that the audience will be glad to see their artist is relevant again. Beats Rhymes & Life adds so many other visuals that seamlessly travel us through each scene. The way they breathe life into the already animated album covers makes each point visual, and it gives the albums more than just an aural-pleasing factor.

Along with the visuals of the album covers and the seamless transition from interviews to concerts to in-studio action, the score was equally expressive. It didn't just come with the hits from Tribe, and then other traditional hiphop music, but an atypical bebop-sounding score. It was very Ovation Network-like, innovative music that guides the scenes along the rollercoaster of the group's life.

You don't only get to see small peeps of Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi, and this doesn't become the story of the ever-present emergence of Q-Tip. Beat Rhymes & Life shines a light on each member and their exact need in ATCQ. The emergence of Phife Dawg was the biggest part of the movie. I was a bigger fan of Phife over Q-Tip because of his liveliness and honesty. While Tip was smooth and educational, Phife brought a realness and grittiness to the group. The documentary shows how powerful his punchlines were, how he gave the group their edge and how his and Q-Tip's differences ultimately kicks the group's ass. Through Phife's lines, as well as each interview throughout the doc's timeline, you see his perspective on how he felt his work went unappreciated as a member of ATCQ. Then there was how he perceived Q-Tip as being bigger than the group.

When speaking on the part of the breakup, the most eye-opening part of the film was Phife's reference to The Supremes. "I guess Ali is Mary Wilson and I'm Florence Ballard? Yo, get the fuck outta here!" Phife says. Although, as the documentary shows (and I won't go into with much detail), those feelings weren't as present between group members, but throughout their entire heyday there was bad communication between the group. Exhibit A: Phife not being upfront with his diabetes seemed to be the snowball that formed just before it rolled downhill. B: Q-Tip's lack of understanding of the other members' needs seemed like dude was cold. Again, not going into too much detail!

Inadvertently, this documentary shows a high and painful price to make as perfect music as A Tribe Called Quest set out to do. Everyone who claims to know a thing or two about hiphop owns at least two albums by these guys. Anybody who aren't big fans of hiphop respect Tribe for not being misogynistic and violent, and for being themselves yet relative to the average man. Anyone who is originally part of the hiphop generation saw the era that is in the ATCQ documentary, the era (and documentary) they helped build.

I hope this provides a charge to the currently stagnant hiphop culture and capital-controlled rap industry. Yes, the documentary shows there was trouble within the group, but it also showed just how much love, peace and unity there was among everyone who loved ATCQ. Seeing the whole Native Tongues collective form and their journey throughout hiphop's golden era in this documentary brought me to near-tears. You know how when you go to the best restaurant and eat the best dish in the world, just to go back home to your freezer full of Stoffer's? That's how I felt after the movie. Had a great fine-dining experience for brunch with Beats Rhymes & Life, then headed home to my Stouffer's frozen dinner.

Star's Grade: A+

Fli Pelican Interview for Frank151

I chopped it up with Nino from Fli Pelican Clothing. We talked mainly about his team's clothes, but also about the music he's bumping now. Was he swiping shots with that comment about Big Sean ("who sold 80,000 first *cough cough*")? I can't call it, but I did a little digging, and saw that Drake might have swiped a shot at Big Sean via Twitter.

Anyway, here's an excerpt of the interview with the Fli Pelican cats:
So what are you listening to now? What’s on Nino’s iPod?
I’m over here right now listening to Lil’ Wayne’s Sorry For The Wait mixtape. I’m listening to Frank Ocean, and Big Sean, of course. He’s from the hometown, D-Town, who sold 80,000 first *cough, cough*. Also, I’m listening to some stuff in Cali, like Chase N. Cashe. Kanye always bump.

What was your reaction when you first heard about or saw Lil’ Wayne donning the “No Sucka S#it” shirt on the cover of XXL?

I already knew about the cover. My man’s had told me he was gonna do it, but I’m the type of person that has to see it. I didn’t even tell my team then. The day it got on the Internet, we were at Krystal’s in the drive-thru and Lil Chuckee (Young Money/Cash Money artist) called. I went to see what Chuckee wanted, and he said “y’all over there doing it big now, huh?” I kind of knew what he was talking about, but I was still like “what?” He said, “I see you guys getting on these covers and things!” He sent me the picture of Wayne on the cover with the shirt, and this was the first time I felt like the artist really embodied the clothing line because he’s just wearing the shirt. It’s not like someone made him put in on for the cover. Plus, we’ve built a relationship with him and the Young Money/Cash Money staff as well. It’s more genuine, nobody forced it upon him or nothing like that.
In the entire interview, we chat about his upcoming projects which include an in-process deal with a BMX cat, plus - of course - snapbacks. Read it here!

Let Raekwon and Nas Floss on "Rich & Black"!!

After the release of his latest album Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, Raekwon harnessed the ability to be flashy and educative at the same time - something that is rarely seen in today's music. This comes in light of his new video with Nas for the single “Rich & Black.”

Before everyone goes on their "here's another 'money, cash, hoes'" kick, please pay attention to the lyrical content of the song and its sampling. Best quote: "I hate to see you act like a slave to get an advance here and advance there because somebody else controls your destiny." This re-tells the flows spat by Nas and Raekwon about being richer - not only in pockets - but in minds. Watch the video for the whole idea of their message.

Yes, the video is not as intelligent as the record, and in fact dumbed down to the average rap industry cookie-cutter video. Nevertheless, give these cats some credit for applying street-friendly knowledge and empowerment to their music.

Nas and Raekwon has always been the type of emcees to kick something for both the streets and the intellectuals to love and relate, and although they've shown growth from that path it doesn't mean they aren't allowed to return to that. We can date these finding back to Nas’s "If I Ruled The World" and Raekwon's narration on the Wu-Tang classic “C.R.E.A.M.” (YouTube videos here - Nas "If I Rule The World" and Wu-Tang "C.R.E.A.M.")

We've been so used to hearing this type of rich and flashy floss music misrepresented by those without knowledge that when someone applies a greater meaning to flossing that it gets ignored. Instead, we should embrace such sophistication that comes out of such a gritty and grimy industry. There's not a simple way to explain the reception of this record and the video, so here's what I got:

It's a shame that music listening has been reduced to keywords, SEO-style lyricism and what the beats sound like. People have taken a expedient effort to listen to their music, like, if they hear "swag" it's an automatic "no" - whether or not it's in a sarcastic context, its definitive form or if the person is against it - it's still received negatively. Same goes for grey areas, such as songs with material-oriented content.

No A-B-C raps have, or ever will, came out of either emcee’s mouths, but the perceived reception is that no flossing should be celebrated. FOH with that mess! As long as Raekwon, Nas, or whoever spits lyrics that all hiphop fans can relate to, I'm game.