The Five Foot Assassin and the Roughneck Business

Look, I’m not one of those nostalgia-freaks who wishes he was born at another time, the 20s, the 60s, blah blah blah. But part of me does wish that I could’ve somehow experienced the music of the 90s as the shit was coming out.
Man, oh man, especially the Native Tongues movement. I’m not going to talk about how that was the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, how hip-hop is now dead (it’s certainly not), and the real stuff is all underground. Just that that stuff, especially the Tribe Called Quest discography, was a special stretch for music period, not just hip hop. Hell, speaking of special time, in Beats, Rhymes, and Life, a record executive mentions an aside about how he was worried that Low End Theory was going to be too mainstream and not as creatively challenging for the audience as People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythym. In what eon are we going to see that sort of concern again?
I’m no longer sure when I exactly discovered Tribe — it wasn’t a seminal moment or anything like that. I’d just seen universal acclaim written about the group over and over again, and one arbitrary day, just decided to torrent the first three albums.
And now, man, I just wish I’d gotten the chance to see these guys live. Didn’t know of those guys in the 90s — hell, was barely conscious of music then. I don’t think I even knew the word “hip-hop.” I just said “rap.”
And then there was their performance in Rock the Bells 2008. But in August 2008, I’d yet to go to my first concert. Hadn’t departed for college yet, and I was both sheltered from night-time activities and transportation-less. Beyond that, Q-Tip and Phife were having their beef then.
So I unexpectedly got to fulfill my wish tonight. In a partial way. Nah, I didn’t see the group perform.
But tonight, when I went to see Beats, Rhymes, and Life at the Arclight Hollywood, Phife Dawg made a surprise appearance. I tend to criticize others for worshipping and ogling celebrities, but on this night, I couldn’t help but to be a hypocrite, because ATCQ’s music has been such a source of good feelings.
I even got to ask the man a question — what he was doing with his career presently. He now works as a basketball recruiter for a high school, while doing some music on the side. And he dropped the tantalizing tidbit that if some things get worked, ATCQ might regroup to mop up their contract with Jive. Wish he didn’t mention that, to be honest — now I’m just asking to be disappointed.
“Phife this, Phife that.” Watching the movie was also a great experience. Note that I say “experience” — I found the film itself to be a pretty good documentary. But what elevated the viewing to another level enjoyment was the audience immersion. Perhaps owing to the subject matter of the film, and the excellent sound editing and motion graphics, the audience was more akin to one of the concert, than one of a film. I have never seen anything like this. It was a full house in a massive auditorium, and people, including me, were bobbing their heads, grooving to the soundtrack. There were no nearby douchebags adding extraneous commentary, checking Facebook on their phones, texting. I guess such as the respect and admiration for the Tribe.
Given the surprise appearance, the audience, and the film itself, this was the number one best cinema-going experience I’ve ever had. I felt that for once, post-film applause was actually merited. Yeah, people clap after a decent flick sometimes, but I’ve always found that pointless. You’re showing your approval, but the people involved with the production can’t fucking hear you.
Today, I heartily joined in the applause. To let the attending Director and Editor know how good of a job they’d done. To congratulate the audience for their miraculous behavior. To thank Phife for contributing to music that has helped shape my life.
Truly an anomalic day — no damn things breaking down, and for once, a stroke of good fortune. I’m shutting off my computer after I finish this sentence and going off to bed in a celebratory mood.

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