If you have been reading my articles, then you know I’m an avid fan of the Golden Age hip-hop groups. Wu-Tang Clan is a band that I’ve always had a strong passion for because of the endless talent each rapper in the clan owns. Plus their lyrics don’t consist of the typical subject matter most hip-hop artists adhere to. The reason why I love this era of hip-hop is because most artists from that time seem to have the same mentality. A Tribe Called Quest is another outfit that consists of the same beliefs. Though Wu-Tang rapped about the pain of life and their sentiments towards society’s idea of “street life,” A Tribe Called Quest discussed more prevalent social issues. This ranged from consumerism and date rape to society's view on black culture.
To say the least, they were a group of supremely intelligent and prolific rappers, who had a massive influence on 90’s culture and on rap, altering it to consist of a more “sophisticated” sound and subject matter. Mixing together contemplative lyrics and jazz music, their style of hip-hop was a uniquely influential for its time. Though when they broke up in 1998 due to an ongoing conflict between members Phife Dawg and Q-Tip, it was a detrimental time for fans and budding acts in rap.
Songs like “Bonita Applebum,” “Can I Kick It?,” “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo,” “Award Tour” and "Electric Relaxation" created a source of wealth for aspiring artists that helped initiate an entire generation of rappers attempting to further their genre away from the “gangster rap” which plagued their scene. The impulse was to try and convince audiences there is hip-hop out there other than the tunes being played on the radio. With all of their history and deeply rooted influence on the current scene of rap, it's no surprise that A Tribe is now the next rap group to receive a documentary about their music. Called Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, this documentary catalogs the influential and groundbreaking success for the New York City rap entourage. Consisting of members Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, the film chronicles the members' success and their demises.
The most magnificent fact about this group is that they have been known not to be cool. I say this because it’s endearing for a geek like me to listen to a group that cherishes knowledge and intellectual stimulation as much as I do. According to Ali Shaheed, he and his band mates are “nerds.” It shows in their music too. Other pioneers of hip-hop like the Beastie Boys, Pharrell, Common and my favorite The Roots also recognize the awesomeness of A Tribe Called Quest too, which is why they agreed to participate in the documentary.
The universal truth about hip-hop is that many efforts in this genre will be generalized into the oblivion of unnecessary assumptions. When I mention A Tribe Called Quest, plenty of folks will automatically associate them with Wiz Khalifa or Lil Wayne, but these two groups couldn’t be any further from each other. From what I can tell, audiences will see Beats, Rhymes & Life try to break that mold. For more information about this film, tickets and future release dates, check out this website.
Here is the trailer for Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest:
Also, for those who aren’t familiar with the style of A Tribe Called Quest, check out these songs that give off a good impression of what they do:
A Tribe Called Quest “Can I Kick It?”
A Tribe Called Quest “Electric Relaxation”