ATCQ-TheLowEndTheoryArtist: A Tribe Called Quest

Album: The Low End Theory

Released: September 4, 1991

Label: Jive

A Tribe Called Quest is: Phife Dawg, Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

There is no way I can express the importance of this album sufficiently.  If you like rap, and confess to it, then this album must be sitting on your CD rack at home.  Otherwise it’s like producing the American Dollar without backing it… hey, wait a minute.

Jazz and rap have never been combined so well.  Jurassic 5 even went so far as to name what is in my opinion their best album, “Contact,” after a sample taken from the final track on this A Tribe Called Quest album.  In the 90s when many of the commercially successful tracks were gangsta anthems (Straight Outta Compton, etc.), A Tribe Called Quest prided itself on provided intelligent and abstract lyrics.  In fact, “The Abstract Rapper,” or Q-Tip, has that spirit imbedded in his moniker, referring to their sense of intelligent rhyme.

“Show Business” is about exactly what it sounds like, the struggle for fame, and its downfalls of attaining it.  ATCQ assert that you have to play the game, but make it plain they are above it.  Rapping about the breaks is nothing new and Kurtis Blow was doing it eleven years earlier, but not like this.  “What” strings together a list of questions that illustrate what things would be without, um, other things.  And the answer is: nothing.  ATCQ is all about the love, and this record predates the East Coast – West Coast rivalry that consumed hip hop later on.  It’s about the music and the rhyme, and is often referred to as true hip hop.  As the Abstract Rapper said, “Rap is not pop, if you call it that then stop.”

This is an album that has only increased its appeal with each listen I give it.  If you are an avid rap listener, but are not familiar with “The Low End Theory,” then brace yourself – afterwards you will see throwbacks to this record constantly.  Maybe in albums you have owned for a long time.