Last week, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of A Tribe Called Quest’s seminal album, The Low End Theory, and after spending quality time with the LP, it became clear that many artists may have snagged sonic gems from the trendsetting hip-hop quartet over the years. If you’re a fan of rap music, you already know that sampling and re-working existing songs is commonplace in the creative process; similar to contemporary art’s idea of the “readymade,” producers will lift elements from one song and add them to a new canvas to re-envision their use. But what happens when the same thing is done with lyrics?
One little-known fact: Lil’ Wayne’s“A Milli” is a slowed-down sample of one of Phife’s lines from a remix of “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” off Tribe’s first album, 1990′s Peoples’ Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Sometimes referred to as swagger-jacking, a rapper re-purposing the bars of artists before him or her can in other circumstances be seen as a salute-beckoning sign of respect. And in Tribe’s case, it should be! In addition to sitting down with ATCQ for their first joint interview since 1998, we also got to chat individually with in-and-out, behind-the-scenes group member Jarobi White to scoop his brains for memories on the group’s incredible second album. In honor of its Album-Versary, we present you with Jarobi’s exclusive interview clips, and the Top 5 Recycled Lines From The Low End Theory.
Yesterday, we brought you the first installment of our two-part VH1 Album-Versaries: The Low End Theory at 20, reflecting on A Tribe Called Quest?s ground-breaking second album, The Low End Theory. After assembling all four group-members in a joint-interview for the first time in almost fourteen years, we were able to share exclusive stories from their recording sessions at Battery Studios and, with help from hip hop expert Sway, cultural critic extraordinaire Nelson George, and international journalist Boss Lady, lauded the album’s effortless ability to resonate with the masses. In today?s Part II, we delve further into The Low End Theory?s sonic framework, the roles of MC Phife Dawg and Q-Tip, and come full circle to set the group?s highly-speculated relationship issues straight.
THE HIP HOP BEATLES
?Coming off the first album, the question was ?well, what does HE do??? recalls Phife, hyper-aware of what listeners thought of his seemingly-small contribution on the group?s debut project. Often referred to as his lyrical coming out party, The Low End Theory truly did give Phife the platform to hunker down and fully transition from (what Jarobi would describe as) being ?young and crazy? to a focused, rhyme-writing, studio-attending MC. His high-pitched, witty lyrics complimented Q-Tip?s smooth vocal delivery, and Phife wound up on 9 of the album?s 14 tracks, a drastic and well-deserved upgrade from the four he appeared on with People?s Instinctive Travels?.
There’s more! Follow along to read the conclusion of VH1 Album-Versaries: The Low End Theory at 20.
A Tribe Called Quest dropped their second full-length album, The Low End Theory, in late September of 1991. Widely recognized as a ground-breaking work today because of the manner in which it experimentally weaved layers of sampled jazz elements into its sound-bed, the album earned a spot in Time?s All-Time 100 Albums List, was named the #154 album of all-time by Rolling Stone and was celebrated at 2007′s VH1 Hip Hop Honors. The group recalls that early chapter of their career vividly, and last week, for A Tribe Called Quest’s first joint-interview since 1998, all four members of the group spoke exclusively to VH1 to mark the 20th anniversary of The Low End Theory?s release.
Aside from our celebration of this Album-Versary, ATCQ has been in the news quite a bit recently. Michael Rapaport?s award-winning documentary film, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, played the festival circuit earlier this year, is due on DVD next month, and managed to kick up quite a media dirt-cloud in the process. In addition to providing an inner glimpse of the film?s starring group-members’ intertwined history, Beats, Rhymes & Life used issues surrounding a 2008 miscommunication-turned-scuffle between MCs Phife and Q-Tip as its second focus. Tribe’s fractured support of the film triggered cascading rumors of residual intra-group turmoil, but once content and contract disagreements and an intercepted-email incident were sorted out, the doc was finally released with ATCQ’s blessing.
For Questers, music fans and students of hip hop culture, Beats, Rhymes and Life is a must-see, but the effect it had on the lives of everyone involved in the project and the press frenzy that lingers might still be a bit misleading to the outside world. In order to help contextualize this landmark album’s impact, we spoke with MTV’s in-house hip hop expert Sway, cultural critic extraordinaire Nelson George, and international journalist Boss Lady about the resonance that this LP had then, and also now, 20 years later. And while A Tribe Called Quest appears to still be somewhat re-acquainting themselves with each other after dissolving in 1998 and wrestling with the last few years? shell-shocking chain of events, it was clear from the time we spent with them that Kamaal ?Q-Tip? Ibn John Fareed, Malik ?Phife Dawg? Taylor, Ali Shaheed Muhammed and, yes, even Jarobi White are still very much an unbreakable Tribe of brothers.