A Tribe Called Quest: "The Low End Theory"

Let’s recount how “The Low End Theory” changed Hip Hop and inspired me to pursue a career in music.

(Originally posted to my Substack)

a tribe called quest the low end theory

A Tribe Called Quest: "The Low End Theory"

  • Artist: A Tribe Called Quest

  • Album: The Low End Theory

  • Release Year: 1991

  • Genre: Hip-Hop

  • Musical vibe: Groovy, Jazz-Infused, Thought-Provoking

As a suburban kid growing up in the early ’90s, it was rare to find anyone listening to hip-hop beyond the mainstream groups like RUN DMC, MC Hammer, and the Beastie Boys.

But one day, my cousin handed me a bootleg cassette of A Tribe Called Quest’s sophomore album, The Low-End Theory, and it changed me from a grunge kid to a hip-hop head overnight.

Everything about “The Low-End Theory” captivated me, from the smooth beats to the intelligent lyrics. Released in 1991, this album marked a major turning point for the hip-hop industry and A Tribe Called Quest’s career. It’s no wonder that it continues to be a classic and a favorite among music lovers.

It was one of the main influences in my life that inspired me to learn to DJ and indulge in club and hip-hop culture. Today, I am honored to write this review of what is undoubtedly one of the most important hip-hop albums of all time.

Conscious Rap

The Low-End Theory was released in 1991, two years after A Tribe Called Quest’s debut album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. It was during this time that hip-hop was beginning to evolve, moving away from the party-focused, sample-heavy style of the 1980s and into a more sophisticated and socially conscious realm. Tribe, along with artists like De La Soul, were at the forefront of this movement, using jazz and funk samples to create a smoother, more soulful sound.

The album features Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and, of course, Jarobi White, who would later leave the group. Each member brought their own unique style and perspective to the table, resulting in a cohesive, collaborative effort that would go on to influence countless hip-hop artists for years to come.

For me, The Low-End Theory had a profound impact on my life as a recent high school graduate venturing out on my own. The album was my constant companion as I explored the world and tried to make sense of it all. It spoke to me in a way that no other music had, with its thought-provoking lyrics, groovy beats, and jazzy samples.

But I was not alone in my love for this album. The Low-End Theory was a critical and commercial success, cementing A Tribe Called Quest’s place in hip-hop history. It was a departure from the mainstream sound of the time, yet it still managed to reach a wide audience, proving that hip-hop was capable of being both innovative and accessible.

a tribe called quest

Every Track is a Standout Track on “The Low-End Theory”

There are so many great songs on this album that it’s hard to choose just a few. But if I had to pick the four most influential and popular tracks, they would be:

  1. Excursions

  2. Buggin’ Out

  3. Scenario

  4. Check The Rhime

Each of these songs showcases the unique talents of the group, from Q-Tip’s smooth flow to Phife’s energetic rhymes. Let’s dive into two of the most significant tracks: “Scenario” and “Check The Rhime.”

a tribe called quest


If you didn’t play “Scenario” in your DJ set in the 90s, you failed as a DJ. The song is full of energy and tension that drove dancefloors wild.

“Scenario” is a posse cut featuring the group Leaders of the New School. It was one of the first tracks that really showcased the power of the collective, with each artist bringing their own unique style to the table. “Scenario” is also known as the breakout song for a young Busta Rhymes. Busta showed he had the lyrical skills and mic presence to dominate the industry on “Scenario”.”

The beat is hard-hitting, with a funky bassline and a sample from jazz bassist Ron Carter’s “Mellow Out.” But it’s the lyrics that really set this song apart.

The chorus, with its repeated refrain of “Here we go, yo, here we go, yo / So what’s the scenario?” is instantly memorable and still gets everyone on the dancefloor.

“Check the Rhime”

Ah, “Check the Rhime” – what a masterpiece. This track is the ultimate ode to old-school hip hop, with its infectious beat, playful rhymes, and a catchy chorus that’s impossible not to sing along to. It’s the kind of song that makes you feel like you’re cruising through the streets with your crew, blasting the radio, and feeling invincible.

The opening bars of “Check the Rhime” immediately grab your attention, with Q-Tip’s smooth flow and the head-nodding beat setting the tone for the rest of the track. The playful banter between Q-Tip and Phife Dawg is pure hip-hop magic, with each rapper taking turns to show off their lyrical skills and playfully one-up each other.

But there’s more to “Check the Rhime” than just playful rhymes and catchy hooks. The song is a celebration of hip-hop culture and the power of music to bring people together. Q-Tip and Phife Dawg pay homage to the pioneers of the genre and the roots of the culture, while also embracing the future and the endless possibilities of what hip hop can become.

Listening to “Check the Rhime” is like being transported back in time to the early days of hip-hop, when it was all about the music and the community that grew around it. It’s a testament to the enduring power of hip-hop and the importance of honoring the past while embracing the future.

In short, “Check the Rhime” is a masterpiece that showcases the best of what hip hop has to offer – catchy beats, playful rhymes, and a celebration of the culture and community that surrounds it. It’s a song that continues to inspire and captivate music lovers to this day, and one that will always hold a special place in my heart.

Ranking “The Low-End Theory” By A Tribe Called Quest

Through “The Low-End Theory,” A Tribe Called Quest set a new standard for hip hop. The album’s smooth beats and intelligent lyrics have influenced countless other artists and genres of music. It’s a true masterpiece that stands the test of time.

Where does “The Low-End Theory” rank on my lists? The Low-End Theory” is undoubtedly one of the most influential albums of all time. It’s a true classic that has had a profound impact on my life and the lives of countless others. It’s also a must-listen for any music lover and will continue to be a favorite for years to come.

We’re ranking “The Low-End Theory” at number 2 on my official Best Albums of All Time Chart.

Thanks for Reading Music Made Me

As I come to the end of this review, I’m overwhelmed by the profound impact that music can have on our lives. “The Low-End Theory” is a masterpiece that has touched the hearts and souls of countless listeners, and I’m honored to have shared my own personal journey with this album.

To all of you who have joined me on this musical pilgrimage, I want to express my deepest gratitude. Your unwavering support and love for music make our community so special, and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.

In the end, may the music we love always inspire, uplift, and move us. Thank you for being a part of this beautiful journey, and let us continue to cherish the power of music, now and forever.

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