Exclusive: A Tribe Called Quest Talk Documentary Beef

Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed, Jarobi reveal to MTV News why they lost 'trust' in director Michael Rapaport and share e-mail from producers that prompted 'red flags.'

Q-Tip is finally telling his side of the story regarding Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, the Michael Rapaport-directed documentary about the legendary group that premiered at Sundance in January.

MTV News’ Sway Calloway sat down exclusively with A Tribe Called Quest members Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi, who called in by phone, on Monday (March 14) and the group opened up about the misgivings they’ve been having regarding the doc. Up until now, fans had mostly been privy to Tip’s online commentary, but they went into detail about some of the “red flags” that led them to reconsider their support of the film. (Tribe member Phife was not present.)

According to Q-Tip, on December 17, 2010, a couple of weeks after he initially expressed concern about the film, an e-mail was accidently sent to him by one of the producers that read as follows: “First off let’s close the Billing Block and put it on the poster so they can’t get on that. Then we’ll f— them on everything else.”

Seated next to Ali in our newsroom, Q-Tip contended that the e-mail conversation clearly stemmed from the group’s early concern about not being credited as producers on the film.

“I mean, what you think?” Q-Tip responded rhetorically when Sway asked about his immediate reaction to the e-mail message. “I mean, automatically you revert back, because this is some hip-hop sh– ultimately.”

But the rapper didn’t “revert” and violence was averted. Still, Q-Tip maintained that despite this point of contention, the group was still participating in the film’s production and were awaiting edits they requested be made.

Our interview also contradicted Rapaport’s assertions to MTV News that Q-Tip was speaking for himself and not the group.

Tip said another grievance he had with the filmmaker was the questionable timing of the documentary trailer’s leaking to the Internet. The nearly five-minute preview clip was also erroneously titled, he said.

“The same day of the announcement that it came to Sundance, that ‘Beats, Rhymes & Fights’ trailer came out,” Q-Tip said, referring to an earlier version of the title. “All of this stuff is going on and we’re still trying to move forward in good faith and we see this e-mail, inadvertently, which was a godsend. I believe that that was the universe giving that to us and showing us who we were dealing with.”

The producers’ response to their own e-mail gaffe only made Q-Tip more agitated.

“Their whole comeback to that was, ‘Oh, he’s just frustrated, everybody’s frustrated,’ ” Tip said. But he countered, “When you’re frustrated you say, ‘Yo, I’mma kick his ass. He’s an a–hole, I can’t stand him, I’mma f— him up. I can’t f— with him again.’ Those are things you say out of frustration. But when you say, ‘First off, let’s close the Billing Block and put it on the poster so they can’t get on that. Then we’ll f— them on everything else,’ that’s strategy.

“That’s premeditated, first. And second, you feel comfortable to say it to the rest of your team. That means that if the environment is conducive for you to have that kind of banter and that kind of language, God knows what else they’ve been saying amongst themselves. So how can we trust them?”

The only member of the group that attended the “Beats, Rhymes and Life” Sundance premiere was Phife . And in spite of the ongoing drama, A Tribe Called Quest still say Rapaport did a great job directing the film and that everyone should see it.

Stick with MTV News all week as we reveal more of our interview with A Tribe Called Quest and their concerns about the “Beats, Rhymes and Life” documentary.