Tribe Called Quest: The Low-End Theory (1991, Jive)

The Low End Theory by Tribe Called Quest

The Low End Theory by Tribe Called Quest

All-Time Albums Series

This week's album is The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest.

Last summer, one of my favorite contemporary hip-hop artists Vince Staples gave an interview to Time in which he was dismissive of 90's rap.

I was, of course, incensed - I started Tweeting Vince and even got into a brief back and forth that demonstrated a few things:

1. Vince is REALLY funny, and much funnier than I

His slam of me as basically being just another white guy who loves hip-hop and Portishead was so "right on" it was scary.

2. He doesn't maybe know that much about the broader picture of 90's rap

It seemed pretty clear that when Vince thought about 90's rap he was thinking of this:

Not this:

(more on PE in a second)

He was thinking this:

Not this:

I hope that his objection is to the overproduction and excess - the loss of soul, because one of the reasons I love Vince Staples is that he is one of the contemporary MC"s who remind me the most of the feel of 90's hip-hop.

In particular, his production and lyrics remind me of Pharcyde and Tribe.

Here is an example of what I mean:

Anyway, I just find it hard to listen to Vince without thinking of Pharcyde.

Pharcyde Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde could have been the all-time album this week for sure. But, as usual, I digress.

Fight The Power

The earlier version I shared of Fight The Power by Public Enemy from the excellent album Fear Of A Black Planet started off the decade (1989) IMHO for hip-hop.

But that is not the version that started it off, this is:

Rosie Perez in the opening credits sequence to one of the greatest movies ever made, Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing.

Do The Right Thing also is pretty important to the climatic sequence in the movie between Sal and Radio Raheem:

Which results in Raheem's death and the riot that burns down Sal's.

Also a shout out to the great Giancarlo Esposito (Buggin' Out), you might know him better as Gustavo Fring of Breaking Bad.

I first saw Do The Right Thing on a trip to visit my aunt in NYC before my Sophomore year of college. She was in her 60's and she asked if I wanted to go see a movie, I said yes, "Do The Right Thing" which had just opened at the movie theater right across the street from where I used to live as a kid (brownstone on W. 23rd).

Okay, I was an asshole to take my 60 year old Aunt to see Do The Right Thing. I realize this, she tried to be as cool about as she could. Believe it or not, she is in her 90's now and still lives in Peter Cooper Village.

Fear Of A Black Planet could have been the album of the week for sure.

The Low End Theory Represents

A Tribe Called Quest - Check The Rhyme - 1991 - Jive from DJ Upperkuts on Vimeo.

I love A Tribe Called Quest.

Okay, love People's Instinctive Travels (1990) but when I remember virtually every party I attended in the early 90's the soundtrack includes songs from The Low End Theory.

Hard to forget them on the rooftop in that video, or the reference to Linden Boulevard (Brooklyn and Queens). But the whole album is CRAZY. It starts with one of the best bass line samples ever on Excursions and ends with one of the most famous hip-hop songs of all time:

Which is really a celebration of the alternative rap bubbling up out of NYC - everything from the breakthrough moment for Leaders Of The New School member Busta Rhymes to verses for Brand Nubian and cameo's by Spike Lee, De La Soul, and Fab 5 Freddy.

The whole album to me is a celebration of a very specific point of view, the Native Tongues (De La, Tribe, Jungle Brothers, LONS, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Black Sheep etc.).

The music is very inclusive of multiple styles and while true to hip-hop still has a backbone of Jazz (and includes many other styles). One of my fave things about Tribe is how unique their sampling style was.

And who doesn't remember the lyrics:

"Yo' Microphone check, one two, what is this, the five foot assassin with the ruffneck business."

Phife Dawg is the perfect balance to Q-Tip no matter how often they beef.

All of the groups I talk about above will probably get on this list soon enough, but this album was like a soundtrack to the early 90's for me. Every song floods me with memories of sitting on balconies and rooftops with friends and beers.

Everything is Fair when your living in the city!

Viva Tribe Called Quest!

Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde II by the Pharcyde 

Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde II by the Pharcyde 

Fear Of A Black Planet by Public Enemy 

Fear Of A Black Planet by Public Enemy 

Summertime 06 by Vince Staples

Summertime 06 by Vince Staples

What do you think of Tribe Called Quest? Pharcyde? Vince Staples? Public Enemy? I would love to hear your opinion, leave a comment!