Actor Michael Rapaport premiered his directorial debut at Sundance in January, the documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest. Finally, after much discrepancy and in-fighting, Sony Pictures Classics has acquired North American distribution rights to the documentary, which chronicles the often tumultuous relationships between members of the alternative hip hop group.
Beats, Rhymes & Life focuses primarily on the 2006 reunion of Phife Dawg, Q-Tip, Jarobi White, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad following their break-up in 1998. The film is named after A Tribe Called Quest’s fourth album, one of three that have gone platinum. Multiple Grammy nominations followed, as did a headlining spot on the 2008 Rock the Bells concert series alongside Snoop Dogg and Wu-Tang Clan.
The acquisition by Sony is good news for the newly-minted director, as it virtually guarantees at least a limited theatrical release. "As a first-time filmmaker, to have the support of SPC is like being signed by the New York Yankees," Rapaport explains. "Telling this story was not only a labor of love but also the most fulfilling accomplishment of my career."
Group cornerstone Q-Tip reportedly wants nothing to do with the production.
In a statement announcing the deal, Sony Pictures Classics partners Michael Barker and Tom Bernard stated, "Michael Rapaport proves himself a major new director and in doing so gives the audience an inside look at one of hip-hop’s most fascinating and influential groups. A Tribe Called Quest has a fan base spanning generations, and this film will only serve to solidify that audience while opening doors for entirely new fans of both the band and Michael."
As a fan of Tribe, Rapaport, and musical documentaries in general, I’m psyched. Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest joins a long tradition of documentaries chronicling musicians, largely kickstarted by documentarian D.A. Pennebaker’s 1967 Bob Dylan doc, Don’t Look Back. In addition to spending a lot of time with A Tribe Called Quest, Rapaport’s film contains interviews with Common, Mos Def, Mary J. Blige, and Ghostface Killah.