VH1 ALBUM-VERSARIES: A Tribe Called Quest Celebrates The 20th Anniversary Of The Low End Theory (PART I of II)

by (@Lacezilla)


“The snares used to spank so hard in Battery, it used to hurt my teeth,” confesses one-half of the group’s music-production team, Ali Shaheed. “The bass was just so aggressive.” Interjecting with laughter, Tip agrees. “Ali definitely blew some speakers in there, a lot! That’s the other thing,” he adds on, still feeling somewhat-tricked into putting money from their recording budget back into the pockets of Jive (instead of working elsewhere), “I think that’s how we was paying them motherf***ers back!” Alongside fellow-producer Q-Tip and engineer Bob Power, Ali would help surgically stitch pieces of (mostly) jazz samples into the album’s bass-heavy sonic fabric. “It seemed like we wasn’t doing it right unless we blew a speaker,” he says, recounting the twice-weekly occurrence fondly.

In addition to Bob and the guys, Battery Studios was constantly filled with ATCQ’s like-minded, artistic peers. Knee-deep in the Zulu Nation-infused Native Tongues movement brewing at the time, groups like Jungle Brothers, De La Soul and Busta Rhymes-included Leaders of The New School were aligning themselves with other eclectic artists like Queen Latifah, The Beatnuts, Common, Brand Nubian and Mos Def, and Battery became a clubhouse for them all to congregate in. But Jive employees? Besides their beloved A&R man Sean Carasov, Phife maintains that “the label wasn’t even allowed to come three, four floors down.”

Self-proclaimed “perfectionist-at-work,” Q-Tip would often spend the night in Battery, and after running into Erick Sermon at Russell Simmons’ office one day, even wound up listening to EPMD?s “new group,” Das EFX, for the first time at Battery, too. Spontaneous moments like that were standard, and it almost seemed as if creative magnetism was a built-in part of the space; when Bob first began experimenting with a ProTools rig and sequencing program Atari Notator in the studio, Ali remembers embracing the “future”-leaning technology with an open mind, even despite the fact that ATCQ hadn’t used anything like it during the recording sessions for their first LP.

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