It is all about “Beats Rhymes & Life” for Michael Rapaport

Directed by actor Michael Rapaport, “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Calles Quest” follows the band A Tribe Called Quest they go through some serious and tumultuous drama while on tour for the 2008 “Rock the Bells” concert series. The film also explores the Tribe’s past from their earlier days as the pioneers of alternative rap to their big public breakup in 1998.

I was able to sit down with Rapaport at the Lowes Hotel in South Beach when he was in town promoting the film.

Hialeah Movie Examiner: First off, congratulations on your film winning the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival. What was your reaction?

Michael Rapaport: I was just flattered, humbled and excited for the movie and for everyone who worked on the movie. It is a very nice to win anything.

HME: What lead you to direct this documentary?

Rapaport: Obviously, I am a fan of this group. When they broke up in 1998, I was curious into why and if they will ever record another album. Whenever I would see Q-Tip or people around the group, I would always ask if A Tribe Called Quest is ever going to make more music. That sort of curiosity about that and me being a fan of the group is what led me to wanting to make this movie.

HME: How many hours of footage during the production of this movie?

Rapaport: We shot over a hundred hours of footage. During the concert tour, we shot with multiple cameras. We also used a lot of b-roll. We had at least over a hundred hours of material.

HME: How long did it take to edit this movie?

Rapaport: We edited for two and a half years. We didn’t edit for two and a half years straight. We would start, stop and shoot. We would look at stuff and take a little perspective. It was a two and a half year process to finish the movie and by the time it took me to come here to Miami, it would be three years in total.

HME: How hectic was it going from project to project as an actor while still working on the documentary?

Rapaport: This movie became a part of my life that grew and grew and grew because of the reality that it was happening and the work overhaul. It became a full-time job doing this movie that I wasn’t getting paid for. It was like a side project, almost like a secret thing that I was doing.

HME: I read in your director’s statement that you had the most highs and lows in your life during the making of this movie. Could you elaborate on that?

Rapaport: The highs were the making of the film, the shooting of the film, being on stage with cameras knowing I’m shooting a movie about A Tribe Called Quest, that I am actually getting the opportunity and that I’m actually directing this film, the excitement of that, the excitement of talking to the group and how enthusiastic everyone was about the film. The lows included the editing process because it was extremely intimidating, overwhelming and frightening. Getting music clearances were scary at times because you edit scenes around certain music. With that, dealing with the band and the disjointedness of the group was sometimes hard to deal with.

HME: Some documentarians like to be in front of the camera and some don’t. Did you originally just wanted to stay behind the camera?

Rapaport: I did not want to be in front of the camera. I didn’t want this to be Michael Rapaport’s journey with A Tribe Called Quest. I love what Michael Moore does, but I wanted to focus on Tribe. I know I had some kind of presence, but I didn’t want to ham it up like “Alright guys, let’s knock on Phife Dog’s door and see what happens”. I just wanted it to be exclusive and about them. I wanted it to keep focus on A Tribe Called Quest because I didn’t want to be in front of the camera for this. I just wanted to be a director. I really truly wanted to be the director and this was my chance to be a director. I think it would have invalidated me as a director to constantly be in front of the camera. I knew this was an opportunity and I wanted to direct a movie for a long time so I just wanted to be just an ordinary filmmaker.

HME: What is your favorite Tribe album and song?

Rapaport: It is hard to just pick one album. The first three albums are so good and told with such perfection, but I would say “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm” because it is such an innocent album. They would talk about many different things, as told through a youthful point-of-view. “Footprints”, which is off that album, is my favorite Tribe song because I love the sample they use for that song and the way the song this build within.

HME: With an episode of “Boston Public” under your belt as a director, did you carry any previous knowledge of directing as you got ready to make this film?

Rapaport: I wanted to direct film for a while. I’ve been on hours and hours of sets as an actor on films and television show. I asked a lot of questions to see how directors work, talk to cinematographers about lenses, how they work and why they use certain lenses. I was always curious about filmmaking. In the back of my head, I would ask questions because I knew I wanted to make a movie.

HME: Following your experience on this documentary, would you direct again?

Rapaport: Absolutely. I would love to do another documentary. It would have to be something I was compelled to do emotionally because it is such a hard process and such a grueling task whether it is financially or technically. I would love to do a narrative film. I’m always going to act and I’m going to always love acting along with the excitement about acting. This movie gave me the confidence to know that I have all the skills to make some sort of film.  

HME: What do you want people to take away from this film?

Rapaport: What I want people to take away from this film is a story about friends, relationships, the struggle to keep those relationships and the story of the golden era of hip-hop. I want people to be revisit or maybe, if you have been living on another planet, get introduced to A Tribe Called Quest because they are one of the most influential and exciting bands to ever do it.

“Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” opens at Regal South Beach 18 tomorrow.

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