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Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (2011)


Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 58
Fresh: 52
Rotten: 6

Critics Consensus: This documentary focuses less on the music and more on the personality clashes and in-group tensions to great, compelling effect.

Average Rating: 7.7/10
Reviews Counted: 25
Fresh: 24
Rotten: 1

Critics Consensus: This documentary focuses less on the music and more on the personality clashes and in-group tensions to great, compelling effect.


Average Rating: 4.2/5
User Ratings: 3,820


Movie Info

A documentary film directed by Michael Rapaport about one of the most influential and groundbreaking musical groups in hip-hop history. Having released five gold and platinum selling albums within eight years, A Tribe Called Quest has been one of the most commercially successful and artistically significant musical groups in recent history, and regarded as iconic pioneers of hip hop. The band's sudden break-up in 1998 shocked the industry and saddened the scores of fans, whose appetite for the … More

R (for language)
Musical & Performing Arts , Documentary
Directed By:
In Theaters:
Oct 18, 2011
Box Office:
Sony Pictures Classics - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest

All Critics (58) | Top Critics (25) | Fresh (52) | Rotten (6)

This authorized documentary is more of a celebration of the legendary Queens quartet than a serious exploration of their art. But considering how brilliant they were at their peak, it's hard to disagree with the general sentiment.

Full Review… | September 15, 2011
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Rapaport gets at the dynamics of a group that struggles even now to get along well enough to get paid - again.

Full Review… | August 9, 2011
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

Despite accusations of nearly succumbing to spotlighting beefs over beats, the film comes off as an honest representation of a great group that's not to be forgotten.

Full Review… | August 5, 2011
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

A combination of timing, access, a visual aesthetic that reflects ATCQ's Afrocentric "surface philosophy" (as the crew's look is described) and, most importantly, story-conscious editing elevates the doc above the norm.

Full Review… | August 5, 2011
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Thanks to a particularly even-handed job by director Michael Rapaport, the story emerges as compelling, even for non-fans in the audience.

Full Review… | August 4, 2011
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

The movie gets the beats and rhymes down pat, but the life part is a little messy. Oh well, two out of three ain't bad.

Full Review… | July 29, 2011
Detroit News
Top Critic

[I]t might have been nice if the documentary had worked a bit harder to find a real internal narrative.

Full Review… | September 8, 2013

While it's uncertain if A Tribe Called Quest will ever get back together and play again, it's quite certain fans will love and appreciate BEATS, RHYMES & LIFE: THE TRAVELS OF A TRIBE CALLED QUEST as their final encore.

Full Review… | October 2, 2012
Gordon and the Whale

Rappaport covers a huge spectrum of voices and opinions, and the themes he explores get into personal relationships -- something everyone can relate to.

Full Review… | November 4, 2011

Rapaport, clearly a fan, is able to capture both the ongoing love and the tension within the band.

Full Review… | September 16, 2011
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

Warning: The bassline Ron Carter contrived for the classic cut 'Buggin' Out' is about as easy to dislodge from your brain as a 'Night Gallery' earwig.

Full Review… | August 29, 2011
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

Maybe I'm just a sucker for good old fashioned hip-hop, but I found Michael Rapaport's totally-by-the-numbers music doco [Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest] absolutely compelling.

Full Review… | August 17, 2011

This documentary therefore did exactly what a good music doco should do: brought people like me up to speed and, according to reports from more serious hip hop fans in the audience, provided lots of information that wasn't previously well known.

Full Review… | August 13, 2011
Cinema Autopsy

An adoring, though enlightening, look at the tumultuous run of the influential hip-hop group.

Full Review… | August 12, 2011

That mood of musical unity, of a sonic movement, is incredible, vibrantly recounted in Beats. It's more than just a documentary, it's a time capsule of hip hop originality and confidence.

Full Review… | August 10, 2011

The movie's value is in informing and illuminating, not provoking.

Full Review… | August 10, 2011
Las Vegas Weekly

It's difficult to get a grasp on just what audience this documentary is made for.

Full Review… | August 10, 2011
Orlando Weekly

Even if you think you don't like hip-hop you may find yourself captivated by the musicality of A Tribe Called Quest, and that alone is reason to watch this documentary...

Full Review… | August 4, 2011

Respectful but not idolatrous, this is one 'Behind the Music' piece that even those who have never heard of the group can appreciate.

Full Review… | August 4, 2011
One Guy's Opinion

If you want to know what hip-hop is all about, this 'rapumentary' is a fine place to start.

Full Review… | July 31, 2011
Sacramento News & Review

It tells a real story that is both complex and coherent, putting ATCQ's impact on the level of what Dylan and The Beatles provided in their respective moments in musical history. And the argument is well made.

Full Review… | July 30, 2011
Paste Magazine

Audience Reviews for Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest

A well-rounded, even documentary that provides the viewer with some insight to how people sometimes spawn dissension from what seems like nothing. There's nothing mindblowing here, but it's definitely an interesting watch, even if you're not a fan. You just might have a bit more appreciation for the contributions of the group to hip hop if you are.

Idrees Khan
Idrees Khan

Super Reviewer


'Beats, Rhymes and Life' does a great job of not only explaining the origins and history of A Tribe Called Quest, but also the influence that they had on hip-hop as a whole. The relationship between two leading members, Q-Tip and Phife, is fascinating to see on film, and Rapaport does a great job of capturing the brotherly relationship between the two band members. This documentary is not just for fans of ATCQ, but should be required viewing for all fans of hip-hop. Grade: B+

Sunny Dogra
Sunny Dogra

Super Reviewer


Music documentaries generally make cringe because they always seem to diminish any regard for the band in question. Beats, Rhymes and Life had the opposite effect on me. It was informative and comprehensive, not to mention very well made and has had the songs of A Tribe Called Quest stuck in my head for days afterward. A lot of the interviews are great but there are a few dipshits around. Interviewing Pharrell Williams before Prince Paul? Seriously...?!?!

Michael Gildea

Super Reviewer


I really dug this film a lot. It helps, of course, that I am a huge fan of A Tribe Called Quest, so getting the chance to watch a music documentary about the group and all they've been through and where they'll go to from here was already a giant plus for me. However, what helped further was the skill that first-time director Michael Rapaport had in assembling this thing. He made a lot of good choices that provided for a film that is insightful, entertaining, quite funny at times, and most of all a great listen in terms of hearing musicians both speak and perform. I enjoy a good documentary, especially one with subject matter that I have such a fondness for.

Aaron Neuwirth

Super Reviewer

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