Two of the four members of the esteemed rap group, Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, recently sat down with MTV News — a third, Jarobi, spoke with us during the sit-down by phone — to elaborate on their issues with the Michael Rapaport-directed documentary, "Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest."
Although the film premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, Phife Dawg was the only ATCQ member to attend. The group did, however, issue a press release at the time expressing their support of the film. According to ATCA, the statement was to help counter any impressions that the group was not involved with the documentary.
"We were being made to look like we weren't a part of the process," Ali told MTV News. "And we've been a part of the process from day one, when we were like, 'OK, Mike, we cool with you being a director and telling the story of A Tribe Called Quest.' We've always wanted everything to flow from beginning to end in a successful manner. Unfortunately, he was not playing along. There was no script; he had a 'purpose.' But it seems like the purpose he delivered to us verbally wasn't what was being displayed."
Q-Tip then chimed in, citing an MTV News story in which Rapaport expressed disappointment about the full group not being at Sundance, even after the director said he'd allocated money to pay for their travel and lodging.
Q-Tip insisted Rapaport "came out of his pocket for $5,000" in order to cover travel expenses for ATCQ and their managers, a figure he implied was particularly low for a week-long stay in Park City, Utah.
Moreover, according to Ali, Rapaport misconstrued the situation by failing to reveal certain details. "It's a deceptive way to tell what really happened," Muhammad said. "Our management, they're thorough and they capture things right away. They didn't need five days to book a ticket; they were on top of it for months to get it covered. Why if he's being asked the question to take care of the travel of the group that you need their support [for], why wait till the last minute to take care of it?"
Ali was not at Sundance because he was on a tour that he told MTV News had been booked three months earlier, a fact that the documentary's producers were aware of, he said. The ATCQ DJ expressed further dismay about all the promotion being done for a film the group had not properly vetted.
"Before we go and do all of that rah-rah, can we even get the film correct?" Muhammad said. "We can't even have conversations with you and your legal department to take care of other business. Not only can we not do that, we can't even simplify a travel answer in a reasonable amount of time. It was so disheveled. How could we not be frustrated? But here we are moving forward, trying to be positive about the thing and he's playing his PR game. At this point, here we are."
Q-Tip also dismissed any notion that he was apprehensive about the film's content.
"He's out there saying quotes like, 'I think they're scared,' " Q-Tip said. "He singled me out saying that I was scared because the film was this open thing. I lived it, what am I going to be scared about? There's not a big reveal in it that I didn't know. I'm a human being, these are my brothers. What am I fearful about?"
However, Q-Tip did express concern that the film might be imbalanced due to lack of context. After viewing a first edit of the film, Q-Tip, Ali, Rapaport and others went over the material to make suggestions.
"After we worked on the edit I was like, 'Yo, Mike, see? This is good. That's how we supposed to do,' " Q-Tip recalled. " 'You still got your stuff, we got our stuff.' We went over it, it's great."
According to Q-Tip, Rapaport flew back to Los Angeles to implement the changes and piece the documentary together. But when the group received a second edit, they noticed they weren't listed as producers on the film. After the group's management asked that this be corrected, Rapaport admitted that their lack of a "producer" credit was no oversight.
"Mike sends an e-mail saying why we shouldn't be producers," Q-Tip said. "Because it's viewed as propaganda [if the featured artists are also producers], it would be biased and the public wouldn't go for it. That's what he said."
When MTV News' Sway asked if they agreed with Rapaport's reasoning, Jarobi responded, "I don't buy it because I just watched that 'Fab Five' [documentary on ESPN] and Jalen Rose is an executive producer, so it doesn't make sense to me."
Q-Tip added, "This is hip-hop, this is music, nobody writes the ironclad rules. This is what it is."