Oyster #93: Michael Rapaport
You gotta be your biggest fan.
New Yorker Michael Rapaport is best known for his role as Phoebe's cop boyfriend on Friends and for his permanent role on Boston Public. But acting isn't his only talent - he is also the voice of Joey Leone in Grand Theft Auto III, has appeared in music videos for Ludacris and Jay-Z and has now made the move into directing. His new documentary, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, recently premiered at Sundance Film Festival and follows the inner workings and behind the scenes drama of the legendary Queens NY rap collective. In Oyster issue #93 Michael Rapaport spoke to Jason Crombie about his multi-faceted career.
I don't normally fan-out on famous folks, but when I called Michael Rapaport for the interview you're about to read, my voice climbed an octave with every digit dialled. "Chill out, nerd," my girlfriend said from the kitchen; but I couldn't - I am Michael's biggest fan! Or at least I thought I was; as it turns out, Michael Rapaport is Michael Rapaport's biggest fan. Which isn't to say that he's immodest - quite the contrary; he's merely armed himself with the kind of single-minded determination needed to make it in Hollywood, and judging by his lengthy acting career, it's paid off in spades. In a high-pitched voice I spoke with him about his directorial debut, his love of hip-hop and what it was like growing up on the mean streets of New York City.
Can't talk about it?
It was really, really, really nerve-wracking. The closest thing I could equate it to is birth. When you go to watch a movie that you're in, you already know what you've done, if it's good or not - you kind of have a sense of what it's going to be. And also there are excuses you can make, like, "Well, at least I was good" or "It was the crew that fucked it up" or "The other actors fucked it up". But when we were at Sundance and the movie was about to begin, I realised there were no excuses; there was no way out. It was all.
It was all on you.
Yeah. But then again, I could have blamed my editor; he was there.
I've been a fan of the group since they came out in, like, 1988 and I've known Q-Tip for about 15 years. We're friends - not close friends, but we've been friends for a while. In 2006 we started talking about doing the documentary, and then in 2008 they went back on tour, so that's when we started filming.
In hip-hop, the lifespan of an artist can be very short. And I would always ask them - the group - when I'd see them around after 1998, "Can Tribe make more music? Will A Tribe Called Quest make more music? Will you guys make another album?" And that ideal - that's really what spawned the idea.
Have you ever rapped?
Never rapped, myself.
You're rapping now.
In Harlem, at a train station on, like, 135th St - gun to the head.
By just the one dude?
That's all you need: one dude and one gun.
I realised I wasn't going to be a basketball player when I was about 15. I went to a basketball camp and saw guys my own age who were six foot nine and, you know, they were dunking and stuff. I saw, like, Shawn Kemp, Jay Edwards and all these other guys who were so much more advanced - skill- and size-wise - than I was, I mean it was just like, holy shit. It was a reality check.
Yeah. I mean, not like Brad Pitt or anything, but I get recognised all the time.
Does it bum you out?
No. I'm not bothered by it. If I didn't get recognised after doing what I've been doing for 20 years then? I've been doing it wrong, y'know?
No way. You gotta be your biggest fan.
Are you your biggest fan?
I gotta be.
Words: Jason Crombie
Photography: Mike Piscitelli