First of all, Michael Rapaport's feature-length doc on A Tribe Called Quest should have been called People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. That title — the same as their astounding 1990 debut masterpiece — is a much better description of the seminal rap group's roller-coaster ride than the name of their fourth and least memorable album, Beats, Rhymes and Life.
Depending on what you're shopping for, this behind-the-dreams look at Tribe's rise is either mandatory rap-nerd masturbation material or the most boring movie imaginable about that group with the song you liked in middle school. For those who grew up calling fat asses "applebums," it's a deep coming-of-age story about four talented Queens cats who made beautiful babies two decades ago but have struggled to stay together since. Marquee frontmen Q-Tip and Phife Dog — whose childish feuds provide the film's central line of tension — have tried countless times to reconcile for the kids (i.e., their fans); yet they always come to the conclusion (whether admittedly or not) that they're no longer compatible. They haven't been for years, or at least since Q-Tip began wearing scarves.
Fans of cable programs where trashy drunk whores joust in Jell-O pits will be disappointed by the lack of shocking drama. Phife's serious fight with diabetes makes for most of the turmoil. As for what diehard Tribe fans might walk away with, of course the soundtrack is beyond bonkers — with Madlib and Peanut Butter Wolf contributing scores to complement the obvious ATCQ bangers. Beyond that, there's an interview with Tribe's De La Soul-mates that's worth noting. Asked whether they think that the 2008 Rock the Bells tour would be Tribe's last, Pos and Trugoy say they hope so — that seeing Tip and Phife bicker backstage over bullshit mars the memory of a great group that was born from a love of hip-hop and each other. I kind of feel the same way about this film.