A Tribe Called Quest | The Low End Theory


Family Average: 6/7


Gotta love a rap collective, gotta love a New York one, gotta love a Tribe Called Quest. Their The Low End Theory has become one of my favorite albums. A classic work of the east coast’s boom-bap era with a cool jazz and funk sound weaved together through all those delicious samples and bass lines. Oozing with New York in the 90s yet flavored with the cool jazz era. 

The album is simple, all the sounds aren’t competing with each other. It's quiet and introspective, but it's profound and it goes hard. The songs waste no time, they go hard from the beginning. There are no filler intros--sometimes just the introduction of the bass--whether it be Phife Dawg or Q-Tip they just go right to flowing and flowing well, you’re hooked in immediately. There are no filler tracks either, it's all yes. 

The lyrics are clever and intelligent. They talk about the real. I love Phife’s line on the track “Butter”, “take the contact out your eye, you’re far from looking fly.” Like that is so specific. Or on “Buggin Out” the line, “I float like gravity, never had a cavity.” Random bits of living that no one would think to talk about, it just works so well. 

Another track to highlight is “Excursions.” This opening track is one of my favorite beginnings to an album ever, we get that jazzy funky bassline and then we’re hit with the iconic boom-bap sound and Q-Tip starts educating us with the story,

Back in the days when I was a teenager/

Before I had status and before I had a pager/ You could find the Abstract listening to hip hop/

My pops used to say, it reminded him of be-bop/I said, well daddy don't you know that things go in cycles/The way that Bobby Brown is just ampin' like Michael.

An important album full of stylish wisdom. 



I think I first heard A Tribe Called Quest when I was back in high school. Some of the older kids in the art room played it and I thought they were coooool. I was immediately struck by the music’s mellow vibe and jazzy instrumentation. Flash forward to today and this album’s still got a soft spot in my heart — as it does for many. Low End Theory was the group’s sophomore release, and in their fusion of jazz with hip-hop, it had a massive impact on the alternative hip-hop scene. 

This album really highlights a jazz influence. It’s an album chock full of stunning production value, with a beautifully slow and leisurely bass, deep tones, and lithe lyrics. There is an ease and  fluidity to it all that never fails to mellow me out. Their rhymes are wild and witty, playful and powerful; the melodies sweet, the expression free-flowing. 

Personal favorites include “Rap Promoter”, “Jazz (We Got The)”, and the immense closer of “Scenario,” which flows like a playful anthem. Few people I know can find much fault with it; they’ve captured a timelessness in their ingenuity. 


Sean Maldjian