Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Road Trip, Part 11: Rest For The Weary

Thank God I had forgotten about her bacherlorette party! I didn’t have time to get dressed to go out and I didn’t want to go out with a 12-year-old’s hairstyle, anyway. I shooed my godsister and her friend out the door, ignoring her questions about why I wasn’t going. Once they were gone, I convinced my dad to take me to Sonic to get one of their soul healing slushies and some tater tots.

The next day was Friday and the agenda was packed with wedding activities. A bridal lucheon, rehearsal and dinner, along with miscellaneous wedding tasks assigned by the bride-to-be. Why my godsister would have us eating so much the day before we prayed ourselves into bridesmaids dresses is beyond me but we sure did eat! I was still a bit self conscious about my hair so, I kept a low profile at the rehearsal and dinner while simultaneously praying I could fix my ‘do back at the hotel.

The busyness kept the grief of my grandpa’s passing at bay. I found myself thinking of that stormy night at the VA less and less. I gasped for air at the shock of it all less often, feeling the prickly pain of sadness deep in my lungs subside. Although I knew the relief was temporary, I pleaded with God that my father felt it, too.

Several times a day I checked with him to see if he had spoken to his siblings. “Some letter from the VA came to The House, today,” he said.

“What did it say?” I asked.

“I don’t know. They all broke down crying when they read it and couldn’t tell me what it said.”

Hair not perfect but a hell of a lot better than before!
Selfishly, I was glad we weren’t there to share in the collective grief with my family. The hurt in that house was all encompassing. There was no escaping it. But we had. We dodged tornadoes to not only see my godsister down the aisle but to find some relief from the pain.

The next morning, I met my godmom to get manicures and pedicures. The wedding day had come and it was time to get fresh! After my nails were mostly dry, I hurried back to the hotel to tackle my hair. Jackie pinned up the coils in the back into a cute french roll then she stepped back to let me handle the mess in the front of my head. After dilly dallying in the mirror for a while, I decided to unravel each twist half way down and coil the ends for more fullness in the crown. Then I would pin the coils over to the left side to create a focal point.

Me and Daddy Dearest. :-)
Here’s the kicker, I can’t flat twist very well, so if unraveled too far I was screwed. I got to work. I would have kept my fingers crossed the whole while if I could have done so and completed the style. I didn’t have to apply any styling products because Mr. Pretentious hair stylist had globbed so much product into my hair. Once I got the first twist halfway unraveled, I tried to coil my hair as I had seen him do. No success. Undeterred I added a bit of water to the failed coil to make it curl and two strand twisted it. Success! I did this for the rest of the way across the front of my hair, pinned the twists where I wanted them, looked in the mirror and beamed. I looked like myself again!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Few Gripes with "Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest"

I was 7-years-old when A Tribe Called Quest’s first album People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythms was released but my brother was 17. Thanks to him, I quickly learned that ATCQ was the pinnacle of Hip Hop groups. While I heard plenty of NWA and Public Enemy in our house, nothing compared to his love for Tribe. I followed after my brother like a hungry puppy. If he liked it, it HAD to be the best and Tribe was his absolute favorite Hip Hop group (and still is).

The love for Tribe, and all the artists represented in the Native Tongues, grew feverishly in our house with each release. I was too young to fully understand the lyrics but I wasn’t too young to recognize the feeling. This music made me feel damn good. It induced feverish dancing (Buddy), coy coolness (Bonita Applebum), pure uncut hype (Scenario) and quiet contemplation (Stressed Out).

Years passed and Tribe broke up. I’ve since fallen madly in love with the groups ATCQ paved the way for: Outkast and The Roots being the most notable. When I heard that Michael Rappaport was directing “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest,” I thought surely the documentary would focus on Tribes impact and legacy. Sadly, this was not the case.

Rappaport’s story was almost elementarily linear. He seemed to be rushing through the history of Tribe to get to the recent beef between Q-Tip and Phife. Tribe’s foundation and first albums were succinctly detailed in the beginning of the film to make room for the more salacious footage of strife within the group.

Rappaport is a self professed Tribe fan, so, I was surprised at the film’s lack of focus on the music. Q-Tip explained where he came up with some of the samples for some of the beats and where in the hell “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” came from. It would have been nice to have more of these insights into how one of Hip Hop’s greatest groups actually created the classics we still rock to today.

Ali Shaheed Muhammad agrees with me. In an interview with he said:

"I think it's decent," Muhammad says. "What I would like to have seen from it, and this is one of the issues that Q-Tip and I have had with the director, is that we felt that -- we're perfectionists in everything we do and we understand the culture and we understand the art form, we understood ourselves and we felt the music was not -- he didn't spend enough time on the composition, on the music. Periods of music that we were pulling from was as important as the way we compiled it, what we pulled away and sampled. He would say 'I've only got 90 minutes to get it done, I gotta shorten it up.' I felt there was too much time on the bickering and not enough time on the musicality of it. But other than that it's pretty fair."

The interviews chosen for the documentary were entertaining and informative. Pharrell, Black Thought and Questlove all provided comical quips and insights from a fan’s perspective. What was missing from this footage was any real discussion of Tribe’s legacy. The very short clips from these artists don’t do ATCQ’s oeuvre justice. No where in the film was their almost religious connection and significance to their fanbase explained.

Another disappointment in “Beats, Rhymes & Life” was that Rappaport chose to use the perspective of a Tribe fan, taking for granted that his audience was already familiar with the group. Anyone watching this film without a working knowledge of ATCQ’s work and impact would walk away not understanding that Tribe was (and is) a big fucking deal. They created a movement within Hip Hop that is still alive today but this film didn’t reflect the immensity of the task.

I will say that I think Q-Tip was in a huff about nothing prior to the release of the documentary. He wasn’t necessarily portrayed as the big bad wolf in “Beats, Rhymes & Life.” If you must choose sides, Tip clearly comes out as the villain in the film but I should hope that fans are able to be a bit more mature with their judgements. I don’t think it was an issue of ego but a lack of sensitivity and understanding. We’ve probably all been guilty of the same thing. Phife isn’t at all guilt free in my view. His hyper sensitivity and lack of communication exacerbated the tensions between the two.

Despite the many flaws in the film, I still thought it was pretty good. The insights that were uncovered in the hour and a half were well worth the price of admission and the trip down memory lane is priceless.