on April 14, 2004
1991 was a GREAT year in hip hop. I was glad to see Organized Konfusion, Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Main Source, and others drop GEMS. Also, A Tribe Called Quest with their second album. This album is one of the greatest EVER, and it's production(and lyrics as well) is what pushed it over the top. If you didn't feel the impact on their first album, you DEFINITELY felt it on this album. Here's the review:
Album Highlights: NO filler, but the HIGHLIGHTS are Check the rhyme, Buggin out, Butter, Show Business(w/Brand Nubian & Diamond D), Jazz, and Scenario(w/Leaders Of The New School).
Production: Thumbs up, Ali Shaheed's BEST production ever.
Lyrics and Subject Matter: Thumbs up.
Originality: Thumbs up.
The Last Word: The GREATEST album from the ATCQ catalog. Most artists' second album usually cannot touch their first, but the Tribe did it, and they did it in style and grace. A STRONG RECOMMENDATION for this album if you don't own it. Don't be left out on owning one AWESOME album.
on April 1, 2004
During the late 80s the torch of conscious lyricism had been handed to the Native Tongues (Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest). The difference between them and other conscious lyricist of the time such as Boogie Down Productions and Public Enemy was their more relaxed, spiritual presentation. This created a new sound to Hip Hop which became mastered by New York's own, A Tribe Called Quest, with their sophomore release, "Low End Theory", in 1991. The heavy jazz influence was revolutionary at the time along with Q-Tip's Slick Rick style flow. This is the reason this record is hailed as a classic. It represented a pinnacle era where groups like Brand Nubian, Organized Konfusion, and Gang Starr were the faces of true Hip Hop. It also gave birth to later acts like Digable Planets, The Fugees, and The Roots to debut in the early 90s. Despite assassination attempts on Hip Hop in the mid 90s artist remembered these earlier groups which gave birth to the more contemporary kings of conscious lyricism like Talib Kweli and Blackalicious. Though Low End Theory is recognized as a classic it's true significance may not come until several decades when it will represent Hip Hop much in a way that Miles Davis' Kind of Blue has become regarded as the benchmark of Jazz.
on February 3, 2004
This one is a fairly recent pruchase for me. I got it a few years ago, after hearing enough buzz and reading enough positive reviews to tip the scale. Thing is, I am not a hip-hop guy. I dig jazz, funk, all kinds of rock, even some electronica, but until I got this album I never was able to get into rap. I guess I just didn't connect to it, and I was turned off by the violence and macho posturing. Well, none of that here. What we have on the "low end theory" is intelligent worldplay, a smooth delivery, and the most laid-back, jazzy set of grooves I've ever heard on anything even resembling hip-hop. There's interesting commentary on the music scene, discussion of the connection between hip-hop and bebop, and a little tribute to Ron Carter the famous jazz bassist who plays on a couple tracks here. It's an engaging and fun listen from beginning to end (except maybe "date rape," my least favorite track here). If all hip-hop was like this, I would be a fan of the genre. But I still notice Nellie at the top of the charts, while many people don't even know that this exists. It's a sad, sad world.
on July 13, 2003
In one defining moment, A Tribe Called Quest made a classic CD as well as opened possiblities to what Hip Hop (and music) could become. This makes the Low End Theory one of the most important Hip Hop CDs ever made. If the Native Tongues (De La Soul and Jungle Brothers) added fresh new colors to Hip-Hop, then A Tribe Called Quest were the Michaelangelo of their time and the Low End Theory was their Sistine Chapel. Check the Rhime, Vibes & Stuff, and Verses From the Abstract were all sounds that hip-hop fans had never heard before. The Tribe took obscure, yet masterful jazz abstractions and anchored them with heavy, low end beats. Add in Q-Tip's enigmatic flow and a game Phife (check him on Butter and Scenario) and the resulting music was more fun than Be-Bop and is still light years ahead of most of the hip-hop in your CD player right now. Never before had rap artists put in such work to fuse beats, melodies, lyrics, timing, and thought into a relevant musical effort as ecletic and stomping as this CD. As a group, a Tribe Called Quest raised the bar in Hop-Hop at a time when it needed raising (Hammertime, Young MC, anyone?) and for that, the heads are eternally grateful. The Low End Theory crystalized the the Tribe as legends in the rap genre and still makes a definitive statement about creativity, innovation, and artistry in modern music.
on June 21, 2003
Well, here it is: after more than 250 reviews, my first ever of a rap album. And I can't think of one more deserving than "The Low End Theory." It's because of albums like this one that it pays to keep an open mind. Much like rock, hip-hop over the past decade (or at least its public face) has been largely a non-stop parade of mediocrity, but A Tribe Called Quest provided convicing proof of just how much potential the genre actually has. Instead of focusing too much on establishing a threatening image or blasting the listener's eardrums with mindless and overbearing basslines, Tribe married the seemingly contradictory poles of jazz and rap with more musicality and intelligence than anyone would have a right to expect. The uber-smooth Q-Tip and Phife spat out witticisms and allusions with a flow that puts the likes of DMX and Ja Rule to shame. The jazzy drums and bass in the background give the music a warm and organic feel, in sharp contrast to the canned beats that predominate in hip-hop (with a few exceptions) these days. Perhaps most importantly, the fourteen songs here are all irresistibly catchy. If you can't bob your head to tunes like "Excursions," "Buggin' Out," the aptly titled "Butter," and the concluding rave-up "Scenario," chances are you're way too uptight. Busta Rhymes's guest spot on "Scenario" even makes me want to get down, and there are few people out there more rhythmically impaired than I. "The Low End Theory" is a great reminder of how little things like fun and artistry could make for a great album. That's certainly a lesson that more people in every genre would be well advised to heed.
on June 17, 2003
RUN DMC's "Raising Hell" set the standard. It raised the flag for Hip Hop. Run, Darryl Mack, and Jay were the undisputed masters of their domain...
Until Eric B & Rakim's "Paid In Full" raised the bar with unprecedented lyrical composition, and a superbly elegant flow, all backed by the distilled funk of the Godfather of Soul himself. Nobody could touch Rakim...
Until Public Enemy's "It Takes a Nation of Millions" brought together revolutionary musical production, socially relevant rhymes, Chuck D's ethereal voice, and combined them into a package that seemingly maximized all of the genre's possibilities. "Nations" was clearly the Sergeant Pepper of the Rap canon; nothing would ever surpass it. Or so it seemed...
All Tribe's "Low End Theory" manages to do is amalgamate and refine all that came before it. Lyrics, beats, rhymes, and message; it boils rap down to it's essential essence and completely removes the filler. They dethrone the original Kings from Queens, the new trio makes the old seem quaint and antiquated by comparison. Ron Carter's live basslines trump my once beloved Eric B scratches and canned James Brown samples. Somehow this album makes even the mighty works of P.E. feel orchestrated, while this set simply feels effortless (great artists always make the impossible look easy).
Nothing I've heard sense has even come close for me. And after 12 years, I think it's probably safe to go ahead and call this the greatest Hip Hop album of all time.
An absolutely essential purchase for Hip Hop fans, R&B fans, Jazz afficianados, and anyone who claims to be able to appreciate great music with an unprejudiced ear.
on December 6, 2002
Guru and Premier from Gang Starr might have introduced jazz to hip-hop on their uneven 1989 debut No More Mr. Nice Guy, but a year and a half later, with Tribe's Low End Theory, the styles blended perfectly like apples & cheese. This is also one of the genre's most consistent records; from the first note of the first song, you sense what kind of ride you're to be taken on, and you're never disappointed.
Highlights include "Check the Rime," which finds Q-tip and Fife rockin' old-school routines over a Minnie Ripperton sample (and may I say, some had been uneasy about Fife's mic skills until this record silenced all naysayers). "Vibes and Stuff" is particularly groovy, as its entire track is a loop of only one record, by Idris Muhammad, a jazz drummer who has done more for hip-hop than most emcees after 1990. Fife tears up the mic on this one: "All I do is write rhymes, eat, drink, ..."
I think the album reaches its moment of perfection on what, at first glance, is a throwaway track, "Skypager". It's short, perhaps two minutes and some change, with one of the raunchiest jazz basslines ever, which seems to fold in on itself in such a way that it's difficult to tell where the loop ends and begins again. The snare drum fill doesn't end where it would conventionally and carries itself halfway into the first bar of the next section, and the flute solo, augmented by the turntable mechanics of Ali Shaheed Muhammad, is a sublime moment where hip-hop transcends its confines as pop music and truly becomes great art.
But just when you thought it couldn't get better, the album culminates in the posse cut "The Scenario", which features the members of the Leaders of the New School, who have been largely forgotten in the shadow of the success of one of their own, none other than Busta Rhymes. THIS is the track where Busta discovered what was to become his trademark style, not to say schtick: the growling. Anyone who doesn't like Busta, or thinks they like him now, are urged to check out Leaders of the New School's first album, before he sounded like he was continually attempting to pass a hairball. "Chocalatey Chocko, the Chocolate Chicken!"
So, what have we learned? Low End Theory is the apex of A Tribe Called Quest's brilliant career, and one of the most significant albums of the genre.
on November 1, 2002
First off Id like to say that the guy before is right. There is barely (except the Roots, Common, J5, etc) any mainstream talent like this anymore but Dre is one of the originals and even though he doesnt rythme about truly thoughtful topics, he still has crazy mic skills. There is talent out there but its in a little known place called the underground where real mcs live.
Anyway, this is a review, so ill review:
THIS CD IS ONE OF THE BEST EVER!!
phife, q-tip and ali straight have mic control. But I must warn you that this not a gangsta rap album. This is hiphop. This got soul.
Let me sum it up for you. If you dont know of TCQ or this album then you are not a hiphop fan. Thats okay but if youre starting to get into hiphop, this is a must-have. And I know tons of rap-haters who love Tribe. I dont think there is a person on this earth who doesnt like this cd. The beats are jazzy, and arent you sick of hearing the same beats by the Neptunes, or any of those soldout rappers who are looking for "bling-bling" and rapping about their money and their [girls]?
TCq has no blingbling and dont want any. They were raised and put out music in a time when hiphop meant more than illiterate rappers who make up words so they can rythme...
on August 24, 2001
A Tribe Called Quest is by far my favorite Rap group ever because no one can or has matched the skills these guys have. They know how to make albums as well as hits. No one can say that they are really into Hip-hop if they don't agree with what I'm saying. I remember when this first came out. Everybody was talking about this album and everyone that knew I had it wanted to borrow it from me. It was crazy! The Low End Theory is the climax of ATCQ's history and it will go down as one of the greatest contributions to rap. Just check this album out if you haven't done so already and you will know exactly what I mean. I highly recommend buying their first album as well, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, which is as good if not better than this. Get Midnight Marauders after you have completely immersed and absorbed yourself in the first two albums and your looking for more. But don't look any further past their third album for more of the jazzy sound that you like because their style changes a little and is quite different than their first three albums. But their later albums are better than a lot of stuff that is out there now. Oh yeah if your a casual listener than buy the Anthology but if you really want to hear ATCQ than just buy their albums. I promise you will not regret it. A Tribe Called Quest is the Best! PEACE!
on March 15, 2001
Even if you forget the fact that every song on this album is decent, and that many of them are absolute classics, it still has to be remembered that this amazing set of songs fit together as perfectly as a puzzle. With many wonderful jazz samples, and many more brilliant rhymes and moments, this is a definite candidate for "the greatest hip hop album of all time award." Q-Tip is, in my opinion, the superior MC, but Phife gives him a run for the money. That's what makes this album so exciting. You can get a better MC than either one of them in Rakim, Nas, etc. You can find a better producer than Ali in DJ Premier, but you can't get a Hip Hop combination this powerful anywhere else. If you're the kind of person who buys albums based only on the singles, The Low End Theory has plenty to offer, between "Scenario," and "Check the Rhyme," which are both classics. Scenario did what a great "featuring" song is supposed to do, and it introduced the world to a new talent. That talent being Busta Rhymes, who makes a wonderful guest appearance as he leaves smoke in his wake as he speeds through his verse. "Check the Rhyme" gives us a wonderful jazz sample, coupled with a conversation as Phife Dog and Q-Tip are rapping together. For those that look for a complete experience, there are love songs, songs about the advancements in technology that were becoming apparent as the nineties began. There are songs about what is happening to Hip Hop. There is a delightful pop-cultural jumper (which is a song that jumps constantly from talking about one cultural icon to another) in "What." If you have any interest whatsoever in intelligent Hip Hop, then go buy this album right now.