Phife’s skills were fully on display on the album’s lead single and Billboard #1 Rap hit, “Check The Rhime,” a cut that both he and his St. Albans-hailing brother Jarobi claim as their favorite from Low End. The song’s high-energy video depicts the group performing atop a Queens dry cleaners, thoroughly repping their well-known Q-Borough loyalty (despite that fact that Ali, along for the ride, was the lone member from Brooklyn). “After ‘[I Left My Wallet in] El Segundo,’ A Tribe Called Quest was pretty much in charge of what singles we were gonna drop, straight up and down,” states Phife, reminding us of a warrior proudly recalling a battle from which he emerged victorious. Already having been through arduous music industry dealings with everyone from the label, to groupies, to money-hungry promoters during the first album’s run, ATCQ openly presented their distaste for “the business” on The Low End Theory by revealing calm, warning-filled guidelines (see “Industry Rule #4080″) for survival.
When it came time to record the song that eventually became “Butter” in Battery’s Studio B, the Funky Diabetic harnessed that newfound sense of ownership and asserted himself with confidence, demanding that Q-Tip acquiesce and let him rock on it as a solo track. “We had a quasi little tiff over it,” remembers Tip, who, at the time, had already envisioned both MCs being on the song. After being commanded by Phife – “Nah! Nah! This is MY sh*t!” – Tip was convinced by his then-girlfriend Ahmedah to surrender the beat to his lifelong friend, since he was, as she put it and he quickly agreed, “a dope MC.”
Fast forward to the present day, Tip is pleased to reveal – “no bullsh*t” – that his favorite song on Low End is, in fact, “Butter.”
“How I was on the chorus and how [Phife] was doing the rhyme… it just felt like if it was The Beatles, and John would sing lead on one and then Paul would sing lead on another and John would be backing him up.”
Phife agrees, noting that, similarly to their renowned tag-team approach on “Check The Rhime,” “it would have the same effect no matter what.” Members of ATCQ referenced The Beatles a lot during our interview, probably because, outside of the British stars’ obvious impact on the music industry, they were constant totems in the studio since, as Q-Tip revealed, Battery housed the same Neve mixer used by John Lennon in the infamous Record Plant studios.