The Low End Theory – A Tribe Called Quest

Released September 24, 1991 this second album was largely produced by member Q-Tip and took the band in a new minimalist sound direction from their debut. It is noted for bridging the gap between jazz and hip hop, launching the career of Busta Rhymes, and generally being one of the most influential albums in hip hop. It is certified Platinum in the U.S.

Jason: I listened to this a few times last week and then today I was relistening I kept hearing all these unfamiliar songs and I realized that I spent 2 hours with it on shuffle and it was their whole catalog.

Brad: Hmmm… so are you prepared to talk about this album or are you confused as to which songs are on this one?

Jason: No. I’m good. I straightened it out. What’s interesting is that I know a few songs off of their first album and some later ones but the only song I recognize from here was “Scenario”.

Brad: I bought this album when it first came out and listened to it a lot in the 90s. In fact, this is probably the album of theirs that I know the best. 

Jason: What’s your favorite song on here?

Brad: In the 90s I would have said “Jazz (We’ve Got)” but now I think I like “Excursions” and I like “Show Business” a lot too.

Jason:“Show Business” is where he talks about making a poop. But it’s an allegory. Is Q-Tip the main rapper on these songs (the one with the more nasal-y voice.)

Brad: Yes, that’s Q-Tip and I learned from Wikipedia that when he originally recorded his vocals for this album he had a cold. He started to re-record his vocals for it but everyone thought they sounded great. So they kept his original vocals. I would agree with that decision. I love the sound of his voice.

Jason: I do too. It’s unique. Unrelated but I always liked the floating Q-Tip head in the Deee-Lite “Groove is in the Heart” video.

Brad: I love that too! I think another reason I really like his rapping is that I can understand what he is saying. 

Someone’s in this torso.

Jason: Yes! A lot of time rappers are incomprensible until you really analyze it. But his style is more… poetic maybe? Lyrical? Speaking off, this album is fairly progressive and socially conscious in tone and lyrics. I don’t recall a single “fag” or talk about killing and rape. Other than “Infamous Date Rape” song which is about NOT doing it.

Brad: I agree! I was a little nervous to re-listen to it because I couldn’t remember if it had anything objectionable like so many 90s rap albums. But I thought it was surprisingly thoughtful and progressive and holds up really well. No cringe-worthy moments. 

Jason: This album transformed hip hop because it was more about the beats and the music with jazz samples. It is very minimal and let’s the lyrics be the star. At the risk of sounding like an old white guy (again) a lot of these songs are real toe-tappers.

Brad: That is more than just a white guy, that is a white guy from a 1930s movie.But yeah, I love the jazz sound throughout. In fact, I like what they do here more than I usually like jazz music on its own.I just learned yesterday that Busta Rhymes’ guest rap on this album is what launched his career. 

Jason: A few solo careers came out of this when they broke up.

Brad: One more thing that I love about Tribe is that they took an 18 year break and then recorded their most recent (and final) album “We got if from Here…Thank You 4 Your service” in 2016. It is a really great album and it went to #1. It is bittersweet because it was released after Phife Dawg died earlier that year. But I love it when artists go out on top. 

Jason: I agree. That album is really good too. Their whole catalog is pretty good. Oh, one thing I forgot to mention. When the “Scenario” hook gets in my head I tend to sing “Deney Terrio, Deney Terrio. So what’s the, what’s the scenario?”

Brad: I miss Dance Fever.

Jason: What grade would you give this one? 

Brad: I think this might be one of my favorite hip hop albums of all time. So I think I have to give it an A. 

Jason: Wow! That’s high praise. A whole album gets a wee bit repetitive for me so I am going with a B.

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