A TRIBE CALLED QUEST
THE LOW END THEORY
Another album from 1991, the fifth on this list--all in the top 10.
Like De La Soul is Dead, another sophomore record from 1991 by a trio.
One album that should really come of no surprise at all, The Low End Theory is a record that managed to quietly sneak itself to the tops of multiple and varied lists in the early 90's. Low End has the broad appeal of a pop record, but when you listen to it, you feel like you're the only one who has ever heard it. It's that balance that makes it such a brilliant recording. It's a quiet, humble hip hop record for the most part, but don't get it twisted, it can col' rock a party with the best of them.
Starting out with the ghostly "Excursions" and ending with the explosive "Scenario," beginning to end, you won't find a more listenable hip hop record, in my humblest. Everything is in the right place, at the right levels, the right tempo and the right mood. It takes influences to innovations as it pulls from the old dusty sounds of jazz greats Art Blakey, Grant Green, Freddie Hubbard, Grover Washington, Jr., Ron Carter and Weather Report and seamlessly marries them with snare cracks and bass kicks--turning water into wine, yet doing so reverently.
As emcees, Q-Tip and Phife are at their best which, in the bigger picture, is still not good enough to land them on any Top Emcee lists. I've never found either to be amongst the best, but their contributions to Low End are more as performers than prophets. Their conversational chemistry is relaxed not forced and the stark differences between their delivery, the smooth whispers of a Q-Tip verse against the Phife's hoarse and high-pitched tone, make them a perfect match of opposites.
The album, as a whole, represents the very best of what a hip hop record can be, but rarely is--almost standing as a blueprint. It's relatively free of cameos and guest spots (except for, of course, the obligatory posse cut "Scenario" and a well placed Brand Nubian spot), it's varied tempos and volume levels from song to song sell Tribe's ability as true musicians, the music itself acts as the transitionary element and not skits and interludes and it times in just under 50 minutes--the sweet spot, the perfect length.
And, if it wasn't for Low End, no one would know Industry Rule #4080.
Debate as you will where this stands amongst your Ready to Die's, your Illmatic's or Reasonable Doubt's, but Low End, for me, was the breakthrough moment. It didn't introduce me to hip hop, but it made me believe hip hop. It gave it credibility. Worth having two of every format--including cassette.
"Check the Rhime"
"Jazz (We've Got)"
There's only one more album to go, folks, and this marathon will finally come to a close. A few people have correctly guessed the number one. But there's only one record left so if you see five that you feel are missing from the list, safe to say four ain't gonna make it--maybe all five. If you disagree, then write your own stinky list. Happy Thursday, people. Weekend's almost here. The Roundhouse begins playoffs tonight at 6:30. How we made it, I'm not sure.