Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Beats Rhymes & Life: A Conversation

Last week, my homie, Matt Tassone and I were both lucky enough to see festival screenings of Michael Rapaport's Beats Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest. Our thoughts on the film are as follows:


Old school, AOL Instant Messenger styles. Mostly raw, and unedited (grammar nazis, step off).

Boothe: Toronto Blue
Matt: Pittsburgh Black

ok, so let's start this off with a quote.
"Beats, Rhymes & Life is The Low End Theory of music documentaries"

is it fair to say that you enjoyed this film?

even more than i had hoped i would. i went to nyc specifically to see it and it was more than worth it

had i not had a plane to catch the next day, i would've tried to get rush tickets to see it again

and as the low end theory of docs, that makes it my favorite hip-hop one of all time

i enjoyed the hell out of it too

one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to you in particular, is because of your background in film

i wondered if this was really a good doc, or was I just getting caught in the emotion of it

at the end of the day, i'm not sure it really matters

well, to be honest, i don't think i can separate myself from it to make a valid observation on that, but my inkling is that it was well done

it's surprisingly touching in places, very funny all through out and just has a great spirit to it

granted, you and i probably feel that more than others, but i think even non-fans would enjoy it. although, if someone is a non-fan of tribe, they clearly don't have any taste at all so perhaps they'd be more happy watching a dane cook special


one aspect that really impressed me, was the animation in the film. in particular i like the work they did with the old photos, bringing them to life

i just loved that they included the busted ass jetta in the title sequence

just like in notorious when they had that one shot of biggie in a red and black lumberjack with a hat to match

yes indeed

ok, being tribe fans, was there anything in the origins section that you didn't know?

i didn't realize that the jungle brothers had actual family ties to red alert

but i think that's about it. again, though, it's one thing to read a bio for info like that. it's another thing to see it captured in a manner that communicates non-tangible things so well

seeing q-tip hug the principle form his high school, ali pausing to let that little kid zoom by on his scooter, etc. things like that really elevated it

that's why i'm leaning towards thinking it was good documentary filmmaking


the high school scenes were great. q-tip pounding on the table...got some great percussion sounds out of it.

i got the sense that most people in the theatre i watched it with, didn't know about Mike G, and Red Alert. I'm gonna play class nerd, stand up and say I KNEW THAT

one thing i wanna mention is that i was worried at the very beginning when they started by teasing the beef. it made me think they might go the behind the music route, but they didn't at all. i thought it was a great mix of the good times with the bad

the one thing that i wasn't aware of though, was the relationship between Phife and Jarobi. didn't realize that they were that close.

yeah, me too

apart from jarobi being a chef, i didn't really know much about him at all so most of that was new as well

ok, so i think the first really great laugh out loud moment was when they spoke about Tribe's presentation and attire. how did your audience react?

enough laughter that i missed a few sentences of what black thought said after that. there were a few places where lines got lost in bouts of heavy laughter

note to those reading: Matt saw the screening at Tribeca Film Festival, NYC. I saw it at Hot Docs in Toronto

i think phife saying he couldn't kick fruit punch got just as big of a laugh

and when they showed the seaman's furniture commercial. i actually remember seeing those when i first moved to nyc

it was kinda of startling seeing their clothing. i remember it being boho-ish, but not to that extent. it was fantastic

what was the first video of theirs that you saw? cause for me, it wasn't until 'check the rhime.' previous to that, i had just heard them on the radio

el segundo

so i don't have first hand memory of the clothes being that wild

let's talk native tongues

i had a strong emotional reaction to that part of the doc

especially when de la was introduced. ryan can confirm this...i kinda let out a "yes!"

me too. i get goose bumps when i heard 'buddy.' seriously

so to see that in a theatre w/ 300 people singing along was great

wow...there was one guy in our theathre who was rapping some parts, but to have the audience singing along to Buddy, that's dope

there was lots of singing along w/ our audience. rappaport had told everyone beforehand to get up and dance in the aisles if they wanted so i think that sorta set the mood for high audience participation

were you anticipating seeing more de la? i was

i loved every moment de la was in, and they happened to be in some very important scenes
i'm assuming you're talking about the 'i hope it's their last show' line from dave?


very strong statement

two things that made that stand out so much - pos's reaction when dave said it, and the fact that de la look so relaxed and happy around each other. they still seem like their best friends

quite a contrast

another important scene was Maseo and Q-Tip's discussion

the shot they captured of Ali, was perfect

and what did you read into that? that they were siding w/ tip? or that they were there just trying to diffuse things with the understanding that tip is high-maintenance?

seemed like they were trying to diffuse things

yeah, that's what i thought too

it is another interesting contrast that phife seemed to always be flanked by his wife and family

but tip only had his boys around him


so in regards to the interviews

did anyone stand out to you in particular, with regards to the information or insight they provided?

is there anyone you might have wanted to see less, or more of?

i could've seen more than everyone. it could've been 4 hours long and i wouldn't have gotten bored

one of the things i was struck by is just how funny and engaging most everyone they talk to is

and it makes sense. that's why the music was so engaging. it was being made by intelligent, charismatic people


i was maybe a little struck by how on point pharrel was because i've never been a big fan of his

everyone else, it's exactly what i expected

questlove is always a great interview

prince paul is always funny

i found monie to be a little...grating

she is on her sirius show sometimes too

she made good points i suppose, but...i don't know...i think i'd prefer if she was a little more...classy?

i also found it funny that everyone from the native tongues can talk about how positive and everything they were and not seem to find any irony in mentioning the beatnuts in the same breath


yeah...or Dres. The first Black Sheep album wasn't really that positive


and the second one sucked

i do want an answer as to why prince paul wasn't on midnight maruaders

yeah, that is odd

maybe his invite was lost in the mail

ok, do you think they did a good enough job of covering the musical elements of the band?

given the scope of the documentary and the time limitations, yes

that bit where tip is talking about the drums on 'can i kick it' was one of my favorite parts


i can't wait for the dvd as i've read there's loads more along those lines

and a little section about large professor, which i assume will be pretty music-focussed as well

i really like what Tip had to say about the near absense of melody in the music, and how it's made up for by the rhythm, and lyrics

the improvisation

yeah, that was pretty poignant

i'd also like to hear if tip was a theory on drums

if you go back and listen to the first three albums, he practically never uses fills or anything

they're just on a loop. they'll cut in and out, sometimes other percussion will be laid on top of them, but there's almost never any real changes

personally, i could listen to them talk about the music itself in terms of theory for a whole film


but i don't think that would be all that interesting to non hip-hop geeks

one thing i noticed...they sort of glossed over Beats Rhymes and Life, and The Love Movement

they did

rappaport said they just had to draw the line somewhere

i'm sure they hve a lot of footage discussing those albums in particular, but i would have loved to hear about what went wrong with those albums

and since those albums had much more input from outside the group, that's sorta where it made the most sense to stop

oh ok, so it was addressed during the Q&A?

actually, i think i read that in an interview

he said there was a full ten minutes on beats, rhymes and life that convered jay-dee and consequence that will be included on the dvd


not really the biggest cons fan, but let's keep it moving

a lot of the press, pre-screening hype (trailer) led me to believe that Q-Tip would be villified

how did you feel about him after watching the doc?

no different than i did going on

everyone i know that saw it basically said the same thing. no one in there comes off particularly bad and they can't understand why they wouldn't want it to be seen

like i said, i think most of the film comes off as a feel-good story about the music

that's what people are taking from it more than anything


well, i'll throw this out there

you tell me what you think

i thought Phife came off as overly sensitive

i felt more like he came off as unprofessional than overly sensitive

unprofessional as an interview subject, but i felt he was overly sensitve regarding q-tip

and i don't want to sound cruel, because his condition is a big deal

i just felt more unprofessional as far as the way he seemed to approach his career compared to tip

but I can't imagine (and i could be wrong) that q-tip would be that crude (cruel) to insult him on stage like

i think it might have been a misunderstanding, and Phife maybe used that to air out other issues he was having with Tip

when either of them complained about the other, i always got the sense that it was more about other things than what they were actually arguing about


so that's why i think it's hard to accuse either of them as being dicks or overly sensitive

because i never felt like i really got a sense as to what each was truly upset about


ok, so let's wrap this up

wait...i should add that the blue jacket Q-Tip was wearing in the park....dopeness

with the scarf? figured you'd be all over that


Beats Rhymes Life....

you would recommend this to fans of Tribe, Hip Hop, and music in general?


yeah, when it hits theatres, there will be multiple viewings for me

me too

and i'm already salivating for the dvd w/ all the extras


alright matt...thanks for taking the time to chat with me

my pleasure


Marta said...


i purposely stopped reading halfway through 'cause there's spoilers left and right. i hope you stick to your offer to see it with me once it's in wide release, buddy!

I'M JEALOUS. movie sounds great.

ps: be prepared for me rhyming along/dancing in the aisles.

done said...

Good post, sounds like itll be really great the way yous described it. That singalong, Q&A screening sounded amazing.

I cant wait for this.

done said...

Im beyond jealous you live somewhere its in theatres too.

The Great Gats, B said...

^ Me too.

Fuck, I'd love to see this in a theatre where people rap along to Buddy.

Mr Bozack said...

Great piece.

"i'm sure they hve a lot of footage discussing those albums in particular, but i would have loved to hear about what went wrong with those albums". One word - Dilla.

Boothe said...

Thanks for peeping.

Haven't discussed hip hop in a while, so it was good to get back at it, and there's no better topic than the Native Tongues.

Hope I didn't spoil too much, and that you'll forget about this post when the film comes out. Either way, i'm sure you'll still enjoy it.