Shortly after running into Vince Vaughn down the street from the Ritz-Carlton hotel Friday afternoon, Michael Rapaport, director of “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest,” relayed the experience to Tribe Called Quest rapper Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor. Rapaport was clearly excited about the encounter, not only because he’s a Vaughn fan, but because he learned Vaughn is A Tribe Called Quest fan.
“You know that dude, Vince Vaughn?” Rapaport told Phife as they sat down in one of the hotel’s suites. “I just saw him on the street. He loves Tribe. He said ‘Yo, heard about the movie — I love A Tribe Called Quest.’ He might come the 24th.”
June 24 is when the documentary, which revolves around the legendary New York hip-hop group, will premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival (the movie hits Chicago theaters July 15). As much as Rapaport would like the “Wedding Crashers” star to be there — as would Phife, who puts Vaughn and Will Ferrell at the top of his funniest actors list — they would be happy just to have the three other members of the band in attendance.
ATCQ broke up in 1998 due, in part, to friction between Phife and frontman Q-Tip. This tension is depicted in the 98-minute documentary, which features footage from the group’s 2008 reunion tour, but the drama didn’t stop there. Q-Tip spoke out against the documentary, and insisted the band members get a producer credit on the film and input in the final edits. Rapaport gave in on the producer credit but not the edits.
“We’ve talked about all the guys coming to the L.A. Film Fest, but I don’t know if they’re going to come,” said Rapaport, a long-time ATCQ fan. “I would love for them to all be there and watch it in front of an objective audience.
“I think the issues that happened with me and Q-Tip … if I bended, I would regret it the rest of my life. I wouldn’t be able to take myself serious as a filmmaker and neither would anyone else. … I know what I did was best for the film.”
Although Rapaport believes the drama surrounding the documentary isn’t all bad (“Maybe it’ll make people more curious about the movie,” Rapaport said), he wishes it had never happened. He admitted there have been enough headaches during filming and the post-production process, whether it was trying to tell the story from four people’s points of views or getting music clearances, and said there were times when he wanted to throw in the towel.
Phife is glad he didn’t. The 40-year-old rapper is diabetic and underwent a kidney transplant in 2008, which was documented in the film, and has had a new outlook on life and the band’s legacy. That’s why he joined Rapaport on the film’s press tour.
“I just felt like we need to embrace our legacy, if that’s what people want to call it,” Phife said. “I want to have fun and enjoy it while we’re still here. If nothing more ever happens with Tribe and we don’t tour or do another album and this is the last hoorah, let’s enjoy that (expletive) to the fullest.”
How does Phife think ATCQ’s story will end?
“I don’t know,” Phife responded. “I’m waiting to figure that one out myself. Hopefully it doesn’t, but all good things do come to an end. I think this whole press run says it all being that the rest aren’t here right now. That could be a sign, but I’m hoping it’s not.
“I just think that if this is it for A Tribe Called Quest, we need to go out with a bang. There aren’t too many rap groups saying they had a documentary done about them. I think we need to count that as a blessing and keep it moving forward.”