Music Feature

Film Review: Beats, Rhymes & Life

by Mercedes Jones
A documentary about one hip hop group, that tells the story of a whole culture...
Beats, Ryhmes & Life @ The Ritz 06-22-11 009

Beats, Rhymes & Life is a melodramatic look at hip hop influentials Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhhamad and Jarobi White, collectively known as A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ).  Directed by Actor/Director Michael Rapaport--an accomplished, forty-something year old white guy--who has a deep appreciation for hip hop and the cinematic chops that make him worthy of telling such a tale.  Tastefully hammered into the form of a first class documentary, Beats, Rhymes & Life chronicles ATCQ's rise to fame--during a revolution of  peaceful and poignant 1990's rap--and is a bird's eye view of the group's botched reconciliation, after a ten year break up.  

Beats, Rhymes & Life encompasses the intensity of a roller coaster creaking slowly to it's climax.  With each nervous click of  the movie's wheels, the audience is thrust forward by an insider's look at hip hop history and pulled back by the gravity of maturity, pettiness and hurt feelings.  The audience is taken on a ride of  rises and falls during ATCQ's collective dive back into an industry that is a shadow of it's former self, by hip hop icons that are shadows of their former selves.    

Laying down a strong foundation of the group's history,  the movie stimulates and satisfies through cameos, first hand accounts from hip hop notables and a vintage Seaman's Furniture commercial that had everyone guffawing in remembrance.   Amid internal beef the group members share their respective sides of the story, as Rapaport profiles their intricacies and gingerly positions the audience between a struggle to maintain the balance of fragile long-term relationships and core member Phife's health problems. 

Rapaport's best work is exposing the mortality of seemingly immortal beings, while providing a blueprint for hip hoppers who don't want to leave it all behind, but are advancing to the next level.  And at the end of  it all the audience is left riveted by a host of emotions; enamored by the cinematic display of hip hop memories; and caught in a parallel universe of lyrical fallacies and the tug and pull of real life.  

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