Coming to a theater near you: L.A. Film Festival winner ‘Beats, Rhymes & Life’

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The rap world has been wrongly accused of lacking good documentaries. From artifact ‘Style Wars’ to portraits of its mid-'90s ascent (‘The Show’ and ‘Rhyme or Reason’) to last year’s ‘The Good Life’ and ‘The Carter,’ hip-hop has produced few contributions worthy of Criterion, or at least the Sundance Channel.

But not many (if any) films have ever so cogently illustrated the dynamics of a hip-hop group like Michael Rapaport’s documentary ‘Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest,’ which won the Audience Award at the recent Los Angeles Film Festival.

The film, which premiered at Sundance, was screened Friday at the Ford Amphiteatre to the tune of a standing ovation for the director and three of the four members of A Tribe Called Quest (all but Q-Tip). Since the first screenings in January, the film had been dogged by controversy, with the members variously retracting and reissuing their support.

The final version, which will premiere July 8 in New York City and Los Angeles, captures the creative differences and personal beef that still dogged the group years after its dissolution. Focusing on the events surrounding the 2008 Rock the Bells tour and the events that triggered the group’s breakup, ‘Beats, Rhymes & Life’ is the closest thing the rap world has to rock documentary ‘Dig!’ -- a document of the difficulties inherent in sustaining a creative and business partnership. And, of course, it’s a love letter to the group’s canonized first three albums, with testamonials from De La Soul, the Roots, the Beastie Boys, Pharrell and more.


If you love A Tribe Called Quest and wonder why all your favorite rap groups ultimately break up, it’s highly recommended. A reported feature will be coming in The Times in the next two weeks, but in the interim, here’s some footage of the scene that went down last weekend off Cahuenga Pass.

And for those who couldn’t get in to the almost immediately sold-out West Coast debut, Paper Ships has just put tickets on sale for the official party for the film on July 7. Taking place at 618 S. Spring St., the event features a performance from Phife, plus a DJ set from Madlib (who composed the films score) and VJ sets from Prince Paul and Peanut Butter Wolf (who handled music supervision).


Live review: Rock the Bells still tolls for A Tribe Called Quest

Sundance 2011: ‘Beats, Rhymes & Life’ premiere turns emotional

Michael Rapaport’s quest lands at Sundance Film Festival

-- Jeff Weiss