"A Tribe Called Go Figure," Phife Dawg mused towards the latter end of the documentary. Cat fights, name calling and pre show fall outs; this documentary really delves into the grittiness involved with one of the worlds most influential hip-hop groups of all time.
The mastermind behind showcasing their times and trials, Michael Rapaport, has over twenty years of notable film credit, which include True Romance and Mighty Aphrodite, along with appearances in the TV programs My Name Is Earl, Prison Break and Friends. Rapaport's self funded creation is a remarkable insight into the inner trappings of the four characters that make up the legendary rap group, A Tribe Called Quest.
Rapaport himself, is not one that you would have thought to be an avid fan of the band, but he is most definitely a 'Tribe-Hard' and it is evident that he put a lot of time and dedication into the project. The Queens native started collecting footage in 2008, when he joined the band on their Rock The Bells reunion tour.
Speaking to Joonbug recently, Rapaport told us how much commitment he put into working with the band in order to get the finished product out, "I funded it all myself, my kids didn't eat for months, I couldn't feed them or clothe them. Look they're starving. But yeah, I financed it myself and then picked up some other financiers on the way, some Executive Producers. I thank God for them." He continued, "The only way to make an independent film is to fight, struggle, you know? Sell your car, deprive your kids of eating. It's a fight. It's a fight making a movie."
The documentary itself begins with colorful opening credits that include original animation by James Blagden and Phillip Niemeyer. They are drawn in a style that is reminiscent of the band's early nineties roots and over this plays "Can I Kick It", one of their most renowned releases to date. It continues with a series of interviews from all four members of the band, although on the whole it focuses heavily on the two main protagonists of the quartet, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg.
Rapaport comments on choosing the footage for the film, "Communicating their 30-year relationship in 90 minutes wasn't easy". Adding, "I was scared to death at times looking at over 100 hours of footage and knowing that there was great material, but at the same time not knowing how the hell I'd pull the best stuff together." He manages it well. Despite the two receiving the most emphasis within the film, you could see that Rapaport was trying to let the opinions of the two strong characters have equal air time, whilst Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White seemed content to let the other two fight it out for the lead spot.
And fight they did. It is no secret that the band had a shock public break-up, in 1998, at the height of their fame. The documentary explores this and reveals that old wounds never really heal, with their bickering continuing right up to their more recent reunion tours. Through Rapaport's cinema verite-style film making, you find your allegiance to the pair tending to flit back and forth. Q-Tip, at times appearing the ever egotistical maniac, whilst Phife Dawg portrays a somewhat Peter Pan-like character, a seemingly eternal child. Both of whom make for very interesting viewing.
A particularly magical component of the documentary is Q-Tip discussing how their music was made. He describes the process of finding great beats and how he accompanies these with the right lyrics. One thing is especially evident throughout - A Tribe Called Quest exude a true passion for music and a reverence for their early roots.
A series of inspirational figures also get airtime. These include interviews from the Beastie Boys, Kanye West, Mos Def, Santigold, De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers, with Pharrel Williams touchingly commenting that without Tribe, his music would never have been possible. Pharell also made an appearance at the premiere of the documentary, with Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and the majority of the Executive Producers and financiers in tow.
Controversially, Q-Tip did not make an appearance, after publically showing his distaste for the finished product, having tweeted, "I am not in support of the A Tribe Called Quest documentary" at the latter end of last year. Rapaport tactfully explains, "He's an artist and a perfectionist who is always in control...He was the leader of Tribe. But I'm making the movie and I have to make the final decisions. He's accustomed to making all of the decisions."
The documentary leaves you raising a few exciting questions. A little known fact is that the band are still contracted to release one more album in order to fulfill their contract requirements with Jive Records, and the ending scene sees the group reuniting in a recording studio.
Not ones going to beat around the bush. We asked Phife Dawg about the chance of any new music from the ground-breaking rappers. He said, "As far as the group, hopefully so." He continued, "From me, yes. Songs In The Key Of Phife, 8 Is Enuff and then the LP Songs In The Key Of Phife: Cheryl's Big Son will be coming soon after that. I'm chopping it up right now." We can't wait.
The documentary entered the official selections for the Tribeca and Sundance Film Festivals and is set to be released in LA and NY on July 8.