Groups like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin have demonstrated the volatility of creative partnerships with their dramatic break-ups. They each defined a decade of American music before disbanding and are now remembered as part of a developing rock canon. Hip-hop has had a shorter history than rock, but it does have its share of groups whose music demands a similar canonization. Few acts have avoided the sophomore or late-career slump like A Tribe Called Quest, whose five albums released across the '90s lack the kind of gradual decline often experienced by groups with a long history.
On July 8, actor/comedian Michael Rapaport, in his directorial debut, will release a documentary chronicling the past, present and future of A Tribe Called Quest. Titled after the group's fourth record, the film follows ATCQ in a recent tour which reunited the members after an almost decade-long absence. What the trailer suggests is that the group did not split amicably in 1999 and that tensions continue to this day.
Beats, Rhymes & Life, ATCQ's second-to-last album, is also their darkest work. The documentary's use of its title may suggest an earnest yearning on the filmmaker's part for reconciliation among the group members and for a brighter, more positive end to a group that redefined the blueprint for hip-hop music by shunning machismo and egotism for empowerment and clarity. The last record, The Love Movement, marked a return to the positive sound of the group's past releases. The filmmaker and fans of ATCQ would likely anticipate the Tribe's travels to likewise return to a positive end in which there's no more love lost.
Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest will premiere locally at Hollywood's ArcLight cinema on July 8.