September 24, 2017

A Tribe Called Quest "The Low End Theory" (9/24/91)

One of the great artifacts from rap's coming of age, this second album by the breeziest of the Native Tongues groups was self-aware enough to claim a jazz heritage, yet spry enough to rap about booty, not Dizzy. Bursting with happy, horny life, rappers Phife and the butter-voiced Q-Tip skip along through free associations and Queens reminiscence -- letting the '50s saxes and airy guitar chords behind them invoke the larger context of their travels. "It was never our intent to make a jazz hip-hop album," said producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad in 1991. "We chose the samples because we like the music." But more than any other rap group, Tribe made the beats-and-life aesthetic feel like a knotty, groovy, completely organic outgrowth of a profound musical tradition. Powered by dark acoustic bass lines and cracking snares, songs such as the percolating "Excursions" offer some of the most electrifying spaces that rhyme tales have ever enjoyed. "I knew people were sampling jazz musicians, but Q-Tip actually knew who Charles Mingus was," says jazz bassist Ron Carter, who played a live, loping groove on the album's "Verses From The Abstract." "Tribe had a sense of what the music could mean, and they were using it to make their poetry do something." And it did, blazing a trail of enlightened, unapologetically musical hip-hop from the Roots to the Fugees -- funky, raw, smart without being soft, and full of banging possibility." - Spin, 9/99.

A copy of the review in Spin Magazine & more is below...