FDF Vol 1 Issue 83 - A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory
Album - The Low End Theory
Artist - A Tribe Called Quest
Key Players - Jonathan (Kamall Ibn John Fareed) "Q-Tip" Davis - vocals, Malik "Phife Dawg" Taylor - vocals, Ali Shaheed Muhammad - arranger, producer, mixing DJ.
Produced By - A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock, Skeff Anselm
Release Date - September 24, 1991
What caused me to blow off the dust? - This is just one that comes and goes in my mind to give a re-listen to. This week it just happened to be the week.
Overview - This is the second release from a Tribe Called Quest. This, and subsequent Tribe albums would long be considered "essential" releases in the rap and hip hop communities. The band would gain wide mainstream success with this release, establishing them as the forerunners in the genre.
FDF Comments (aka the songs) - An almost coffeehouse music feel upright bass brings up "Excursions". The simple slap drums as Q-Tip has a smooth delivery layered over the top. Subdued horns ring out underneath as the song has a breakdown utilizing samples as well to fill the groove. Almost the same bass line seems to intro "Buggin Out". Phife takes the lead on this track and his vocals are a little stronger, a little bass to his voice, but the tag team with Q-Tip works out well. The slow jazz underbelly layers well. The wah wah guitar of Jimi Hendrix (a sample) brings up "Rap Promoter". Its a simple sample that is looped over the 4/4 cadence of the drums. The drums, never seem to waver holding the steady low end . "Butter" has a pretty slick back beat that underlines the smooth lines given. Phife takes the lead on this track as well. He name checks Heavy D, Bel Biv Davoe to name but a few. Busta Rhymes is name checked from the get go on "Verses from the Abstract" as Q-Tip handles the lead on this track. The bass line is done by jazz player Ron Carter The band also name checks De La Soul whom for a few years they'd share a common bond musically. As you'll hear in the down load section "Show Business" kicks right off with a more heavy back beat. Phife and Q-Tip seem to feed off each other right away. This was new to this record, and the vibe is strong. If you are new to A Tribe Called Quest this is a good sample of their work. We slow it down, and smooth it out on "Vibes and Stuff". Chimes, or bells, sound off verse changes as the verses are given at a brisk, yet at the same time, laid back tempo. A track that will turn up eyebrows "The Infamous Date Rape" follows. The lyrics are a little risque as one would imagine. Considering the time, hard core rap was a few years away (at least in a more mainstream sense). The first single released from the album "Check the Rhime" follows. It overs a smooth tag team on the vocal lines that uses the sample "Love your Life" from the Average White Band. The loop works wonders, and your toes will be tapping before you know it. The breakdowns use the sample heavy riff a few times as well. "Everything Is Fair" opens with a compressed sounding loop of the title repeated before the instrumental breakdowns. "Jazz (We've Got)" keeps the (as the title suggests) strong vibe of jazz music. It is a smooth flowing track with the laid back lyrics given clearly without blurring the lines of quirky. Speaking the first few moments of "Skypager" the listener is then tossed right in to some heavy bottom bass (well heavy for this record). The sample loop repeated lays the tempo and again, Tip and Phife trade lyrical verses laden with samples from phone calls to phones dialing. The track would break down, filled only with DJ scratches. "What?" opens with a little more funk organ. Tip comes right in with a speedy vocal delivery. The song just asks the question over and over with an example like "What is hip hop if it doesn't have violence". When you listen, it does ask a fair number of questions that need an answer. A track that is credited with launching Busta Rhymes into the mainstream "Scenario" closes out the album on a high note. One of the hard hitting, yet fun tracks on the record. See for yourself in the down load section. A great album closer.
Where are they now? The band disbanded in 1998 but reformed in 2006 for a tour and rumors of a subsequent new album. The band supposedly owes the label one more release under their contract. The members who were about 18 when it all started have outside interests from producing to coaching basketball teams.
FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I actually *should* have seen them live as part of Lollapalooza 94. I left my house at something like 10am that day for the show but sat in traffic..and sat..and sat. Nick Cave who was on the bill sat as well, and missed his set but played a little bit during the Breeders set. Oh well, can't say I didn't try.
FDF Overall Take - ten years ago rap records were rap records. A co-worker who is a fan of the genre told me recently "nobody raps anymore" and when you think about it, its rare. It might not be for everyone, heck its not really for me all that often, but when its done well my ears do perk up. The accolades this record has gotten speak volumes, here is but a sample:
#53 in Blender Magazine 100 Greatest American Albums of All time (2002)
#56 in Pitchfork's Top 100 Favorite Records of the 1990s (2003)
#154 in Rolling Stone's Best 500 Albums of All Time (2003)
Spin Magazine has sung the accolades: #32 in Top 90 Albums of the 90s (1999), #38 in Top 100 Albums of the Last 20 Years (2005) and, #87 in 100
Alternative Albums (1995)
The band on myspace
Curious? Check out some MUSIC!
MP3'have been removed.
Jazz (We've Got)
**Show Business - has some "language" so heads up.
All the tracks taken from "The Low End Theory" which you can grab here
Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.