This month for our 2023 Staff Picks series, we turn to Shorts Programmer Patrick Johnson who’s selected a film about one of his favorite artists and one of the most special things in his life – hip hop. Here’s what he had to say:
“I’ve been a self-proclaimed hip hop head since the genre arrived in the late 70’s. A bit of a purist, but not to the point that I don’t want to see the music and artists grow. Music is my life – I was a band nerd in high school and performed with the hip hop group Red Light District for over 10 years. I have a Tidal hip hop playlist for any occasion you can name. Sometime between 1990 and 1991, I fell in love with the eclectic, jazzy, weirdness that everyone referred to as ‘A Tribe Called Quest.’ The horns. The muddy bass lines. Ali with the ‘sugar cuts,’ and The Abstract and the Five-Footer with the wordplay.
Tribe was a huge part of my 90’s soundtrack. The entire rap community was devastated when Tribe broke up. ‘First the Fat boys break up? Now this?’ How could this be?
Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, a behind-the-scenes documentary by Michael Rappaport, really attempted to find the answer. Hearing the stories of the come-up and the world tours and watching Phife deal with his health issues gave me the insight I needed. I watched friendships blossom within the group, only to have those same friendships tested during the most integral moments. It was like watching brothers fight and a family separate, only to find that the love is still all there. The admiration is greater. The respect is real.
You like music? You’re really into it, huh? You may even have a favorite group. If so, you gotta check out Beats, Rhyme and Life. Through all its ups and downs, the film is a true celebration. You’ll be looking for your Tribe playlist soon after!”
Beats, Rhymes, & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest plays at the Sidewalk Cinema May 19 – 21. Get tickets here.