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 was a controversial e-mail that Q-Tip read during the MTV interview from one of the producers of the movie saying, ‘"First off let's close the Billing Block and put it on the poster so they can't get on that. Then we'll fuck them on everything else."
Yeah, I’ll explain that to you too. Because on December 19 after my team, my editor, my producers, my VP had spent two and a half years putting this movie together they said, “We’ll sign off on the movie if we get producer credit and our managers get producer credit.” This is the first time it was ever brought up. I sent out an email saying, “This is why I don’t think you guys should be producers because of a, b, and c. I don’t think it puts the film in the best light.”

One of my other producers said, “Fuck them.. blah blah blah” what Q-Tip read in the e-mail and accidentally hit reply all. His sentiment was the same sentiment I had. “Fuck them! You didn’t produce this movie.” And that’s it and that’s what that was.

Well it doesn’t say “Fuck them” in the e-mail, it says, “Then we’ll fuck them on everything else.”
Yeah, we’ll fuck them on everything else in regards to them being producers. I mean, I can’t read his mind as what he meant by “Fuck them on everything else.” But, the bottom line is A Tribe Called Quest shares in 50% of all the profits of the movie. That’s a signed agreement so there was no fucking them on everything else. We have an agreement.

It’s signed by all four members of A Tribe Called Quest and the Beats, Rhymes and Fights LLC, which is my side. So, we all signed it. We agreed to it. Prior to the email thing Q-Tip had went on Twitter and said, “I don’t support the documentary.” He went on Elliott Wilson, that cornball’s show, and said, “Michael Rapaport is speeding. He’s a first-time director.” All kinds of things and then he back-peddled about saying, “I don’t support the movie.”

On that interview that’s when he anointed himself as a producer. He said that on live radio. That’s the first time the whole producer thing came about.

You had said you felt that Q-Tip was speaking for the group and in the MTV interview Ali said he was very upset about that because he said they all had edits that they wanted so it was a group thing. It was never a “Tip and you” thing.
Well, you know what, Phife is a very acceptable person. You should talk to Phife. Track down Phife and ask him what he thinks. Phife asked me to take one photograph out. He asked me to do it and then eventually said, “You know what? Keep it in.” Jarobi like I said, after he saw the screening, the rough, rugged, and raw shit said, “Do not change a thing.” Ali said I want more Ali Shaheed Muhammed and then Ali said he wanted one scene removed so his new girlfriend’s mom doesn’t see it. The most frustrating thing about it is everyone loves the movie and the group loves the movie. They said it in an interview, “We love the movie. You did a great job.” So, what’s the problem? You love it so much that you wanna have more ownership of it?

They were saying that their notes about making a more balanced portrayal of the dissension between Phife and Tip or the way the music was represented in the film weren’t taken into account by you.
Okay. I don’t care. I disagree and I’m the director. But, taking into account and doing what you are insisting I do are two different things. I took everything into account. Q-Tip is very, very smart. He’s very film savvy and film knowledgeable. I listened to all his thoughts. I’m not going to do everything that you asked me to do.

Some of his thoughts were corny. Some of his thoughts were really good. So, he had no bearing on what the final cut was in terms of the flow of the movie and all that stuff. It was really just about protecting his image. His whole thing was protecting his image. That’s why you can’t produce a documentary about yourself. You lose the perspective.

Well with all that’s happened now and all the back and forth, as a fan, has all this made it hard for you to listen to Tribe’s music?
Well obviously I appreciate the message way more than I get along with the messenger. The music will always be great. Will I ever do business with those guys again? Hell No! Not in any way, shape, or form.

It sounds like since you said you’ve been talking to them since 1999, you and Q-Tip had a relationship for a while before this?
Yeah, I’ve known Q-Tip for a while. I’ve known Q-Tip for like 12, 13 years. We’ve had dinners, hung out, had friends in common. We’re friendly.

So it most be really disappointing for it to turn into this then?
It’s disappointing because I know my intentions were and are very pure. I am doing a documentary about my favorite group and one of the things, the catalyst for making the movie is will there be more music? And why did you guys break up in the first place? This wasn’t a behind-the-scenes or making-of or DVD extra, I’m trying to make a movie that’s entertaining, fulfilling, and informative.

Those things are for real sort of geek fans, and all that stuff will be on DVDs, but at the end of the day it’s like my question throughout the whole movie is will A Tribe Called Quest make more music? And when I’m trying to answer those questions on film, the group is saying that “We want that scene out because we don’t like how we look.” I was willing to make compromises to protect them. Trust me, there is footage that exists that I never showed any of them that would blow their minds if they saw it and you know it’s gonna be buried away.

Footage that would blow their minds and not in a good way?
Yeah, you know people saying things about each other within the group. Ali saying certain things that he probably wouldn’t want Q-Tip to hear and this member saying things that this person and wouldn’t want you to know. People are real honest about stuff and they would be saying things and I would be going “Oh Shit!” But I know it would never make any version of any movie that I would show them because I wasn’t trying to do anything vindictive, I love the group.

Since everything started happening, obviously you speak with Phife because you were on the red carpet with him at Sundance, but have you spoken to anyone else from the group?
I spoke to Ali after his MTV interview. I have not seen the full thing, I just saw part one, it was kind of like a mini-series—but I spoke to him before he started saying that I was deceptive, and I spoke to him before I saw that stuff and I talked to Q-Tip through e-mails and text messages since the MTV interview.

So you guys are not on terrible terms because you guys are speaking still?
Our only reason for speaking at this point is about the movie. But I’m willing to like sweep all this shit under the rug cause inevitably it does not affect me. It does not affect my persona, I’m an actor. My persona is not as precious as A Tribe Called Quest’s persona. They’re sort of revered and there is such a mystic around them. I just don’t want them to play themselves out by trying to make me look bad.

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