Lyrics to Go: ATCQ Documentary Opens in NYC

A few records from the FMF Tribe collection

Ever since the announcement of Michael Rapaport’s documentary of seminal Hip Hop group A Tribe Called Quest had been public, people have been buzzing. Not only is Tribe been one of the greatest Hip Hop groups of all time, but their story is definitely something special. Their last record The Love Movement was released in 1998. It’s been thirteen years since we have heard from them collectively as a group, besides the one off reunion tours over the past couple of years. FMF touched upon this film when it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival back in April. Since then there has been more controversy: radio interviews with Q Tip, radio interviews with Rapaport, and the he said/she said back and forth of scorned lovers. This all made for a great lead up to the movie opening.

On a rainy Friday night, my better half and I went to a packed Sunshine theater to see the film. There was a DJ on stage playing Tribe sampled songs and sides from ATCQ catalog through Serato (with no turntables an internal mode), which I thought could have hyped people up a bit more if they actually had someone cutting and scratching actual records. This had no effect really on the crowd either way, and by the time the film started, groups of people were scrambling to get single seats throughout the theater. The crowd was mostly late twenty somethings and above, clearly hyped to see the film. I spotted a bunch of ALIFE Tribe tees, some Low End Theory Tees, and plenty of enthusiasm for the movie. We all know that Q-Tip, although he was on Hot 97 promoting it the other day, doesn’t have the same feelings as Rapaport on the film, and if he didn’t come to the Sundance premier, why would he come to the NYC one? Rapaport “New York state of mind by default” was in LA for the West Coast premier, so the audience was not treated to any special guests at the theater. The film itself is captivating, from the opening scene to the last of the credits. What you get, is a concise history of the Tribe, from conception at Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers in NYC to the final reunion show in Japan in 2010. At times Q-Tip is portrayed as a “nut and control freak” by Phife, which can seem that Phife is jealous of Tip’s accomplishments both with ATCQ and as a solo artist. Q-Tip does seem a bit divaish, but I can tell you first hand from a brief meeting, the man is humble, a nice guy, and maintains to this day it has “always been about ATCQ”. His candid conversations about Phife’s diabetes, how he has always tried to push Phife throughout their whole career, and about still singing Tribe songs without the remaining member of the group (because the fans want it) are a testimony of how professional he is. Phife seems bitter, illness aside, and his tales of never wanting to go to the studio and later on being a basketball scout over rapping leave the viewer wondering whether or not his heart is still in it. One can only imagine how difficult his day to day tasks are without even rapping, let alone trying to record and tour with an illness. All the while, Ali Shaeed is in the middle, doing his thing. Let’s not forget the revolving fourth member Jarobi White, Phife’s right hand man and at times caretaker, who came in and out of the group throughout their career, but finally gave it up for the culinary arts. Rapaport did a great job talking to the who’s who of Hip Hop about how much ATCQ has influenced the whole game. From the Beastie Boys to Questlove to Prince Paul (who we discover was NOT on the cover for Midnight Marauders) to De La Soul to studio guy Bob Power to Chris Litey to the Jungle Brothers to Pharell and more, one theme was prevalent throughout: ATCQ changed the game. It’s true, if you are a fan of Hip Hop, you can’t deny the power of the Tribe. To this day, even though they haven’t made a record in 13 years, they are still important. The rhymes, the samples, the beats are all timeless. (Props to Tip for showing the doubles of The Stark Reality albums in his studio). For any fan of Hip Hop and especially those fans of ATCQ, I highly recommend this film. First time director Rapaport catches all the drama and behind the scenes action about this band you didn’t know about, and leaves you wondering when you walk out of the theater: will we get that last ATCQ record that’s left in their Jive record deal? One can only hope that the bitter past is just that, the internals struggles have been put the rest, and rule #4080 doesn’t discourage the Tribe from giving the people what they want.

One response to “Lyrics to Go: ATCQ Documentary Opens in NYC

  1. just saw the documentary– its tough to see wut Phife went thru being a T1 diabetic… as I am one myself.. he’s still on syringes when he could be on a pump and mayb have had the chance to avoid a kidney transplnt altogether.. i’ve had it longer than he’s had it w/ no problems… then again, being a touring musician has the consequence of doing you in esp w/ a preventative medicine disease..

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