Q&A: Michael Rapaport talks hip hop and sports

Fri, Jul 22
10:49
AM ET
Michael RapaportValerie Macon/Getty ImagesJarobi White, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Phife Dawg and Michael Rapaport at the film's premiere.

If you ask Michael Rapaport if Philadelphia Phil -- the Philly Eagle-lovin' character he played in "Big Fan"-- is sorta-kinda like him, he'll say sorta-kinda but not really.

The difference is the real Rapaport is a sports fan, but not a sports fanatic. There's a fine line differentiating the two. And in his directorial debut film, "Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest," Rapaport had to balance his time between documenting the dynamics of one of hip hop's greatest groups and, in his own words, "caring more about the destruction and demise of the Boston Red Sox than anything else in sports."

Rapaport talked to Page 2's Scoop Jackson about the film, which includes interviews with all four original Tribe members -- Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White -- and the connections with the group and sports.

People who know Tribe always associate Phife with sports because he always seemed to incorporate sports or sports figures into his lyrics. (Favorite: "I'm Jordan with the mic, wanna gamble?") But everyone sleeps on Q-Tip. In "Check The Rhime" alone, he drops two gems with "Got the scrawny legs but I move just like Lou Brock," and "Pass me the rock and I'll score 'em with decorum." In doing the film did you discover that Q-Tip was a sportshead too?

I've been to Knick games with Tip. He knows his stuff. He's a big Jets fan, so ... he's as much into [sports] as Phife, he just doesn't talk about it as much. He's very passionate about it. I sat right next to him at the All-Star Game in San Francisco [in 2000] when Vince Carter won that dunk contest. Yeah, he's a huge basketball fan too. You know, we all had hoop dreams growing up. We all wanted to be in or have something to do with sports. The fun thing about Tribe and Tip and Phife is that they were able to put it on record, like they'd drop all of these [sports] references and stuff like that. They're both definitely into it heavy.

Can hip hop be considered a sport?

I think hip hop is not a sport, but it does have a sports mentality. In terms of being the best, kicking ass, it definitely has that mentality. Especially the golden era of hip hop, the great MC's, battling. L.L. [Cool J], you know, "I wanna crush you. Wanting to be the best. Michael Jordan to Joe Namath to Willie Mays to Joe DiMaggio to numerous other people, I think the similarity in mentality of it is the same. Being No. 1. It's talked about all of the time in hip hop. "I'm still No. 1! I'm the best! I'm the greatest of all time!" It's the same mentality in sports.

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