Actor Michael Rapaport is a true New Yorker.
Growing up in Manhattan, he embraced everything the city was about—the lifestyle, the music, the sports teams (he's a New York Knicks and Yankees fan).
After appearing in such films like "High Learning," "True Romance" and "Hitch," the multi-faceted star took the reigns as director for the new documentary, "Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest," in which he chronicles his favorite group's journey as they reunited for the "Rock the Bells" tour in 2008.
Rapaport made his way to everyone who's anyone in hip hop to pose the question: "Will ATCQ make new music?"
Feeling slighted in its creation, the group members' support behind the documentary has waned, but that hasn't stopped Rapaport from seeking out his passion and interacting with other Tribe fans. The film, which opens nationwide this coming July, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last week and the 2010 NBA Celebrity All-Star Game MVP spoke with me about the film and his favorite basketball team.
To hear more about his vision for the film, what he thinks of Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, his favorite Garden moments and more, read his interview below.
Q: I know you're a big Knicks fan, Mike. What do you think of the job Mike D'Antoni did with the team this season?
A: I like the job that he did the first half of the year, but I also know it's hard to trade a group of players like they did and expect magic to happen. Everybody says his defense stinks. I'm sure he knows that though, because it stunk in Phoenix too. I don't know if he should stay or go—who are the other options? If the defense is bad wherever he goes, something's just not right.
Watching them lose four in a row in the playoffs was frustrating, but I know they had the injuries. They couldn't even win game though. I know Chauncey Billups and Amar'e Stoudemire were hurt, but still!
Q: How did you feel about the way the team finished the season as opposed to the way they started it before the trade with the Nuggets?
A: I liked the first group's energy because they definitely felt more like a team. The new group just hasn't been cohesive enough because they got dumped together right after the all star break. When things are put into place correctly this new group has an opportunity to go further. The old team needed help, but they have obviously gotten it with Carmelo Anthony.
I like a guy like Chauncey, too, but he can't keep up with and guard some of the other point guards in the league. Have you seen Russell Westbrook of the Thunder play? He's a monster!
Q: You've been a staple at the Garden for quite some time now. Do you have any favorite Knicks moments from games you've been to?
A: The first game that I saw at the Garden was when Dr. J played the Knicks. I remember sneaking down into the front row just so that we could watch Dr. J do layup line dunks. That was an event in itself. He wore that big knee brace and his wristbands. People were smoking in the Garden too. It was just a crazy time. Dr. J was just my hero though. He was my favorite player, period. No questions asked.
I can't think of a really great Knicks game that I've been to though. Every time I'm there it's usually a blowout or someone's been hurt. I went to Bernard King's first game actually. That was cool.
Q: Growing up a Dr. J fan, did you still grow up watching the Knicks? Were you a fan of King? He's Carmelo Anthony's boyhood idol, you know.
A: Of course! Bernard King was big for the Knicks. He had an underdog quality about himself. I loved him, Michael Ray Richardson, Bill Cartwright—all those guys. I just loved the Hubie Brown years.
[Anthony] has a more versatile game because he can put the ball on the floor more. King was more of a scorer though—definitely one of my favorites. I liked Latrell Sprewell a lot too, but the way he left the Knicks and how he demanded they pay him more money was just crazy.
Q: Moving on to talk about the documentary, what was your vision for the film?
A: As a fan, my question was always—will they make more music? That's always been my thing through the years. I know they could, and that the fans would love it. Will they? I don't know. People have been asking that question since the group broke up in l998.
Q: How have the fans perceived the film so far?
A: The response so far has been great. I've been overwhelmed and pleasantly surprised with the emotional response that has come. The laughter that the film has brought has probably been an even bigger surprise to me.
Q: Lastly, what were some of your biggest motivations for making the film? Why should fans go see it?
A: I want fans to be reminded of just how good Tribe really was. I also want some new listeners to be introduced to them as well. I even want them to be introduced to classic hip-hop like De Le Soul, the Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah—all of them.
When you think about Tribe, you just have to recognize what was the golden era of rap and hip hop. They all changed pop culture. Have you seen that T-Mobile commercial with that rapper that just goes off? That was all because of rap music like Tribe.
For them, changing pop culture wasn't just all about the music. You look at the baggy shorts type look and all of the other different types of urban styles out today are all due to what they did. Appreciating and listening to Tribe once again makes people remember how special they were to the time and where they came from.
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