Beats, Rhymes and Life Steve Rutherford/steverutherford.co.uk

Phife Dawg has no reservations supporting “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest,” the documentary about the legendary rap group he helped start, that was released earlier this month by Sony Pictures Classics -- despite the fact that the other three members (Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White) have vocalized their dislike for it.

In fact, he was the only Tribesman who attended the prestigious Sundance Film Festival earlier this year to screen the Michael Rapaport-directed documentary -- to the disappointment of the rest of the crew.

“I’m a grown-ass man and I’m going to make my decisions regardless of who likes it, who doesn’t like it,” Phife says. “I’m not saying that to start no beef or none of that shit, but there comes a time in a man’s life where he has to do away with bullshit. Kamal [Q-Tip] is mad at me because I decided to support the film and he chose not to. It’s the yin and the yang, I guess. You’re tall. I’m short. You do you. I do me.”

Can We Kick It?

News of a rift among Tribe members has been circulating since 1998, when the group broke up just prior to the release of its “The Love Movement” album. Prior to that, A Tribe Called Quest was among the most respected and influential rap groups of all time. The playful vocal interplay between the self-proclaimed “abstract poetic” Q-Tip and “punchline proficient” Phife atop the group’s jazzy, soulful beats made them distinctive, trailblazing and admired -- all of which is discussed in the film.

I think Q-Tip thinks I sold the group out by going to Sundance and supporting the film.

But problems between Phife and Q-Tip became more and more significant during the group’s time together, which is also depicted in the film. There was no major scandal that drove the two rappers apart. Rather the fallout, as depicted in the film, seems to be between lifelong friends who eventually had a hard time getting along due to petty differences.


“It leaves you thinking to yourself, ‘What is the problem?’” Phife says. “I think Q-Tip thinks I sold the group out by going to Sundance and supporting the film.”

Phife had other reasons for attending the film festival. He wanted to get first-hand exposure to the film industry. “That’s really why I went to Sundance, so I could rub elbows with the Forest Whitakers, some of these new filmmakers or whoever was going to attend, just to get an idea of how things are run, how things are done because I’ve never acted or directed in my life,” he says. “None of that. But it’s definitely something that I’m interested in.”

In addition to preparing a solo EP and album, Phife is also working on a sports television pilot. It’s called “The FANalysts” and it features Phife and his friends providing in-depth commentary on sports. “We represent the fan in every sport we talk about, but we also analyze the situation,” he says. “We don’t just say, ‘Derrick Rose is MVP.’ We pretty much break down why he’s MVP or why he should be MVP. We don’t just say, ‘Dallas is going to beat Miami in six.’ We’re going to break down exactly why.”

Phife takes a similar approach when analyzing “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest.”

“You get the good, the bad, the indifferent, but then it comes full circle by the end,” he says. “I think it’s a good film.”

For more from Soren Baker follow him on Twitter: @SorenBaker

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