July 26, 2011

FILM in REVIEW: A Quest by the Tribe Called

SR’s Chante checked the “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” documentary and shares her thoughts about the film…

I finally had an opportunity to check the documentary chronicling the trials, tribulations, successes and milestones of A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) as well as marking a very pinnacle moment in hip hop history.

This film was a stroll down memory lane for me. I grew up in Brooklyn and was literally surrounded by hip-hop. If you grew up in my hood not liking or knowing anything about hip hop, you lived under a rock - how could you not know about DJ Red Alert, Afrika Bambaataa, The Furious Five, Run DMC, Kurtis Blow and the list goes on. Hip Hop during the beginnings of me (late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s) soured through my veins along with other musical influences. It all intertwined!

The film showed me the true reason why I loved listening and dancing to the Jungle Brothers, Moni Love, De La Soul and, of course, ATCQ. They brought, as they call it, a “conscious party” vibe to hip hop using all aspects of music from crazy percussion sequences, break beats that were sick and loops that made you pause to try to decipher what way-back-when-song did they sample that from – and then there times that I found out that it was the artist’s instrumentation that made many beat hooks that were eventually looped. I’m not going to admit that I’m an expert of hip hop but I respected the genre and the culture that evolved from it

The film sought to not only tell the story of these four friends who met, had a gift and shared it with the world, but it also told the story of what hip hop once was. It showed us who were the pioneers that paved the way for hip hop artists and DJ’s of today who think outside the industry box aiming to achieve a higher level of consciousness in their music like The Roots, The Neptunes, Ja Dilla (RIP), Common and so forth. During the entire movie, I was cheesin’ from ear to ear because it was so nostalgic and it gave me a clearer understanding of the history that was made during my formative years. I remember the block parties where dudes dug in the crates, spun the oldies but goodies and created classic new sounds. I remember the good ole days when most artists created feel-good music instead of using their platform to continue unnecessary beefs. I remember those good times and ATCQ was a critical part of that. What they spoke about, their synchronized movements and their wardrobe was nothing less than legendary. Their energy was invincible on wax and on stage! The only way to destroy that synergy was from within.

The film did address the question of why did ATCQ disband. I personally never knew why it happened. A lot of groups back in the 90’s came together and broke up. That was the nature of the industry beast, I suppose, but the film delved in a bit deeper than that on ATCQ’s breakup. The tension of internal beefs as well as the motivation by members to pursue other life dreams caused the group to eventually implode. For ATCQ to end on such a tragic note was heartbreaking but it was inevitable – you can’t fight fate! Perhaps the union of the members was meant to break because each of these men had to listen to their own inner voice to follow their vision whether its perfecting their culinary skills, fighting their demons for the preservation of life or having a continual impact on all music genres through creative expression. Whatever the reason, I am incredibly thankful to have been a part of a generation that witnessed the historic birth of ATCQ, hip-hop’s pioneers of the native tongue movement.