For us ‘old heads’ who always talk about how good hip hop was in the 90s, one of the few groups that seemed like they were universally respected was A Tribe Called Quest. Michael Rappaport (who seems like a very cool dude but who will always be the cat who snapped in Higher Learning to me) is the director of the documentary ‘Beats, Rhymes, and Life’ that goes into the origins, the creative highs, and the sad breakup of a Tribe Called Quest. Since it’s a documentary (i.e. true story), I’ll just tell you up front that I won’t use this space to spoil the various twists and turns and things you learn in the film, but I’ll talk briefly about each member of the group:
Jaroby: the ‘silent’ member who ducked out early. It’s funny when the Tribe was peaking I’m sure I would have been one of the first ones who would have said, “What kind of fool are you to walk away from that?!?” But when you’ve been around the block for a minute, you understand a) Nothing lasts forever, and b) balancing your personal dreams with your work life is the greatest ish ever. Play on playa…
Ali Shaheed Muhammad: the resident ‘George Harrison’ of the band; low key, stays out of the drama, loves his art and keeps it moving. If you don’t think I can relate to a cat like that, seriously, why are you here? He was the ‘eyewitness’ to everything basically but it doesn’t appear to have turned him into a negative person. Got to admire that.
Phife Dawg: Well he’s Malik the 5 footer, so naturally he’s my favorite (half joking). Depending on whose ‘side’ you’re taking he’s the bad guy in all of this (or his ego) is. In retrospect it makes sense but I never realized how much of a sports junkie he is, so he may have found his true calling in his second career. What I really took from Phife’s part of the story (and this is the romantic in me talking of course) is that there really is NOTHING in this world like finding a woman who loves you unconditionally.
Q-Tip: ‘the Leader’, the resident artist of the group. Still all these years later, on that very short list of distinctive MC voices (Snoop and Eazy E are the others who instantly come to mind). Depending on whose ‘side’ you’re taking, maybe he (or his ego) is the bad guy in all of this. Or maybe (and I know this myself from experience) people can just naturally grow apart. And especially when you talk about boys growing into men, we all have our own egos and our own agendas, and when the party’s over, you just hope you can look back at some point and say, ‘We had some good times back in the day.’
So thank you A Tribe Called Quest for giving me plenty of good times and great music back in the day.
Now if you all will excuse me, I’m about to bump ‘God Lives Through’ for the 13,254th since last night…