Interview: Michael Rapaport Addresses A Tribe Called Quest's Grievances And The Infamous E-Mail

Interview: Michael Rapaport Addresses A Tribe Called Quest's Grievances And The Infamous E-Mail
There’s a poignant scene in the movie where Dave from De La Soul basically says he’s glad that it’s Tribe’s last show because they’ve been fighting so much.
I fought for that scene and that comment from Dave from De La Soul to be in the cut and people on my team were like, “Why do you want this? The sound is bad.” De La Soul was as close to ATCQ as anybody is and Dave, that’s the only thing I have him in the movie saying and it was the most poignant... not poignant, but the truth.

That was the reality and I think he was speaking for everybody close to the group by saying, “You know what, if you’re not gonna do it and enjoy doing it, stop doing it.” I knew that that was gonna make any cut of the movie that I was gonna hand in.

At that moment at that show in Seattle, which was the last show of the tour, it did feel like that. Getting through that tour and being around it filming it, it was hard to be around. It was upsetting to be around and for somebody like Dave and the De La guys, it was definitely more upsetting to them than it was for me cause I was just a guy with the camera.

It didn’t just start in 2008, it’s been going on for a long time. So, I was very adamant about keeping that in the movie and I’m glad you picked up on it because it was like a truth dart when he said it. You see Pos’ reaction. His reaction is like, “Oh shit did he just say that?”

There’s another scene where Q-Tip is saying he produced the first three albums, but let the whole group get credit. Early on it seemed like the perception was Ali Shaheed Muhammad was producing everything.
Q-Tip definitely says a bunch of times, not only with myself, but in other interviews that he produced the first three albums. He makes it clear that he produced all the music. So, it is what it is.

There’s been some confusion about what exactly Nas’ role was in the making of this documentary.
Nas was involved. He was kind of just supporting me, supporting the film and overseeing it from a distance. There was not kind of an official involvement, it's kind of been misinterpreted.

When you say oversee someone do you mean that he was involved in edits or anything like that?
Nah, [Nas] hasn't even seen the finished cut. He was on tour with them in 2008 when I was shooting them, so he was just around. He has not seen the movie yet. I can’t wait for him to see it.

Were you and him working together on the film from the beginning?
I've talked to Q-Tip and mentioned doing a documentary about A Tribe Called Quest since they broke up in ‘98 because I always felt in hip-hop they were similar to the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and The Doors. I was always a big fan of those documentaries and Tribe meant that to me, so I stared talking just almost in jest in ‘99, 2000. I always just wanted the group to do more things because I was unsatisfied, and when they broke up, it was disappointing. It was heartbreaking for the fans.

So in 2006, they did a show at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles and it was the first time that I had seen them perform and right there after the show I said to them, “Yo somebody should do a documentary about A Tribe Called Quest.” I can’t remember if it was Q-Tip or Phife, but one of them said "You should do it.”

I got the idea then and it never really came together and then in 2008 they started touring again and I started thinking about doing it again and I ran into Nas and he was like, “That would be a great idea, we should work together on it.” That was sort of the whole Nas stuff. He wasn't a producer, he was just really supportive of me, which I really appreciate.

In a recent interview members of Tribe made it seem like initially they didn’t even know you’d be involved.
You talking about that little bullshit MTV interview they did? I can't say what their perception is, but I can tell you what the reality of it is, you know.

Q-Tip has spoken about not being happy about the timing of the trailer leaking to the Internet and the fact that it was titled Beats, Rhymes and Fights initially?
Yeah, I’ll tell you exactly what happened with that. A trailer that was made probably two months into shooting and we shot for two and a half years, got leaked from somebody that came forward and admitted that they stole it off a web browser. Beats, Rhymes and Fights was the original title that I thought would be good and Tribe said they didn’t like that title.

I think it became a little bit too scandalous and then it kind of made it seem like that’s what it was and I agree it wasn’t the best title for the movie. I think it’s a funny play on words. But I said, “Fine, no problem.” That trailer wound up getting stolen off the Internet. It wasn’t put out there by me. It was put out there literally by a hacker dude who we tracked down. We did a really good job of getting it taken off. None of my team put it up there.

When Q-Tip wants to make a documentary based on the making of this documentary he can make The Low End Smear Me and then when we got into all this controversy we can call it Beat, Rhymes and Lawsuits or People’s Instinctive Travels in the Past to the Courthouse.

One of the big complaints Tribe had was getting the second cut of the film back and not being listed as producers.
Yeah, well, producers usually produce something. Q-Tip in my opinion has gone out of his way to make this as difficult a process as possible. They never asked about being producers until the 29th hour when my final cut was handed in. Then they said, and this is the exact truth, "We won’t sign off on the final cut until we are given producer credits and our managers are given producer credits."

Now, my real opinion on why they shouldn’t be given producer credits is number one, they didn’t produce shit for the movie. Number two, why would you want to take a producer credit on something you didn’t produce? Number three, yes, it could potentially seem like a reality show or propaganda if you get a producer credit on something that is about you. I said, “If I keep this scene in there or that scene in there it’s a better story. It’s a better articulated, well-rounded story.” They said, “You’re gonna have to bite the bullet on this one. We don’t want that scene in there..”

There was a handful of scenes that they had problems with, but there’s really two scenes that I took out. Well there’s one scene that I took out that didn’t affect the story. It vilified Q-Tip more than he felt comfortable with... I don’t wanna say what the scene is, but if you’re a producer you should support the director and they didn’t support me. And, I’ll just the say that for the three of them. At the end of the day they didn’t support me and they’re still not supporting me.

Phife has been supportive. Phife never told me to take out anything. The reality of it is after I screened the rough, rugged, and raw cut for Jarobi, he turned to me and said, ‘Don’t change shit.’ When I screened Ali the rough cut his biggest thing was there's not enough him in the movie. That’s a fact. We sat down. We had coffee and talked about it and his biggest thing was there was not enough Ali Shaheed Muhammed in the movie.

Q-Tip had a lot of different thoughts and feelings and a lot of them were to improve the film. They weren’t just ego-driven. He gave me a lot of ideas and thoughts and some of which I agreed with and some of which I didn’t, but he definitely had a point of view on how to improve the film. But ultimately he asked me to remove certain things for personal reasons because he didn’t want to be portrayed in a bad way. And the reality is that I would never put out footage that would really portray Tip in a bad way. I respect Q-Tip. I’m not a bad, mean-spirited person.

I respect A Tribe Called Quest. I wouldn’t have made a movie about the group to defame them or defame him personally. Their music has meant a lot to me and I know how much their music has meant to the fans, but I told him, “What you’re thinking makes you look like an asshole, if you ask people who see the movie they won’t even be able to remember the details of the scene.”

That was my whole thing, it was like, “Yo, you guys are looking at it and voicing your opinion because you don’t understand all the shorthand and that day this happened and that day this happened. I need to explain this.” We’re not doing a Ken Burns 12-hour documentary on A Tribe Called Quest. You have to trust the audience. They’re not looking at it as detailed as you guys are and that was sort of my take on it.

They definitely busted my balls and are continuing to bust my balls. A lot of people have seen the movie at this point and there’s one out of maybe a 100 that ever said that any of them looked bad. Basically people have walked away saying, “I wish they could get along and make more music.” I’m just trying to make a movie that gave the group dignity, celebrates the group and I think at the end of the day I did that. It just shouldn’t be so much of a pain in my ass.

At one point during the MTV interview, Tribe claimed you only offered them $5,000 total to fly and lodge all of the Tribe members and their managers for the whole week and that’s why they didn’t attend The Sundance Film Festival.
That’s bullshit. We had tickets booked, flights booked and they didn’t go to Sundance because they didn’t want to go Sundance. Q-Tip didn’t want to go to Sundance because he didn’t wanna go to Sundance, period. Phife went to Sundance. Ali didn’t go to Sundance because he had a tour in Europe and that was months before so we knew he wasn’t coming to Sundance.

Look, it’s like you wanna be producers? Be producers. All the other producers flew themselves to Sundance. Your manager who wants a producer credit, she’s a producer too, now. I flew myself to Sundance. I put myself up and so did my editor and six or seven of the other producers who actually worked for two and a half years putting this movie together.

So you either wanna be a producer or you wanna be the talent. What do you want to be? I would have done anything to have them at Sundance and I would do anything to have them everywhere and all that $5,000 shit? Bullshit. Garbage.

The screening was on a Saturday. Q-Tip wanted to fly in Saturday at two pm, stay for the screening and leave that same night. He only wanted a hotel for one day so he could chill for a minute, go to the screening, do some press and bounce. He never even talked about staying there a week.

The wackest, most peculiar thing about that bullshit MTV interview they did was when they said, “We love the movie. We think it’s an amazing movie. We want people to go see it.” Well, if you want people to go see it what the fuck are you doing on MTV trying to disrespect me and the movie? You’re embarrassing and shitting on yourself by even going up there and doing that.

Here’s another piece of reality I wanted to tell you, they have the rights to the soundtrack to this movie. They have control over it. They can do what they want. There’s not gonna be a soundtrack because they can’t get their shit together enough to do a soundtrack and they chose not to do a soundtrack. And also, when you put out a documentary in theatres like this one on July 8, when you do one original song it can be submitted for an Oscar nomination.

I told them that Sony Pictures Classics would love nothing more than for A Tribe Called Quest to make one original song that could potentially be submitted for an Oscar nomination. What better way to cap off the documentary that you’re producing than to make one original song that’s submitted for an Oscar nomination. And, the chances of them making a great song are higher than not. That’s not gonna happen either and that’s all because of dysfunction within the group. Q-Tip said it’s not happening.

But also, before all that there was all kinds of, “Oh, I’m gonna do this” and “I’m with this,” and that didn’t happen either. And, “Oh, we’re big in France. Let’s go to Cannes film festival and do a show there.” If A Tribe Called Quest did a show in conjunction with this documentary they’d make more money than anybody who’s worked for the last two and half years making this film.

Everybody that I’ve gotten together has worked for nothing. No one’s made one cent. I’ve put my own money into this movie, getting it done. None of that has happened yet and the way things are going it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. And, it’s their loss because If they did a show, I have no stake in it and I’m comfortable if at the end of the day I have to promote the movie by myself. They did all the work. It’s about them. It’s not about me anyway.

Click next to read Rapaport's explanation of the infamous email sent to Q-Tip by accident

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