The rare hip-hop album that might be compared to a sinuous piece of jazz like Kind of Blue, a Tribe Called Quest's 1991 The Low End Theory is all NYC in a day: swagger perfectly in check with a breezy sense of cool. So if the band hasn't inspired a masterpiece of a docu-profile, that's okay and not anyone's serious fault, least of all actor and superfan Michael Rapaport. He puts the head-bobbing music first, yet runs into the fairly common problem of watching the group's success get dissolved by ego, a third act that's hard to make fresh. A Tribe Called Quest might have symbolized (along with De La Soul and others) a new mood of sunny, psychedelic creativity, but the endgame is the same old story.
Beats, Rhymes & Life (a title taken from an underdiscussed Tribe effort) works best when it's articulating---a little too far in---how revolutionary Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and crew sounded in the context of Public Enemy's stridency. They slowed things down and humored them up: Tip can be seen thumbing through record racks, playing the original vinyl beat for "Can I Kick It?" (taken from Lonnie Smith's 1970 Drives LP) and cracking a goonie face. Rapaport should have spent more time in this pivotal early-'90s moment, rather than tripping dutifully into Phife's 2008 kidney operation.
A brief history of screen hip-hop
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