Like so many, New York had a pull on me even before I moved there. The benefit of growing up in the 90s meant there was SO much good music, hip hop specifically, happening there that I had to go even when I had no idea what I was going to do there. I grew up, really, in New York even though I was raised in Detroit and born in Pasadena. New York made me an adult.
If it hadn’t been for the Native Tongue movement, Jazzmataz and Digable Planets, I have no idea what kind of person I would have turned out to be. Scratch that. If that music hadn’t affected me like it did, I don’t know what I would be now. The whole idea that there was a quest for identity and a consciousness that nobody else seemed to really need except for a selected group of us, was an amazing moment to be connected to.
I get weary of docs about that time because, well, if you didn’t love it and didn’t feel like it was pulsing through your veins, then it’s hard to capture. Michael Rapaport obviously loved it as much as many because his doc “Beats Rhymes Life”, all about the journey of A Tribe Called Quest, captures it like he was taking a picture of each lyric, each loop, each crazy concert where we all nodded our heads so hard that we came away dizzy.
I can remember most of my growing up moments with this soundtrack underneath. I remember Pierre Bennu giving me a tape of a De La Soul album and playing it until it broke. I remember listening to Midnight Marauders in my Shockwave extra bass Sony Walkman, the joint vibrating, while sitting on the 4 train to Brooklyn. Bonita Applebaum set a standard for how I wanted anybody to step to me. It’s just clearly amazing to remember these moments and how they’ve built up like muscle in my whole being. Like jazz, this kind of hip hop will never leave me and I’m so grateful for that.
Every group that is formed should watch this doc. Not just hip hop groups but any time you work with people you start off caring about like family and then realize that sometimes, when you grow up, the dynamic doesn’t always keep always keep you on the same page. And that’s okay.
Hopefully folks won’t view the non-beef between Phife and Q Tip as an impetus to watch some dramatic tale unfold. It’s really about how art can be so collective and it’s process can be so dividing. At the end of the day, what lives is the music, thank whatever diety that’s over that. The group succeeded because they are still at the top of the major playlist of so many around the world. It’s just life.