Apple Music 100 Best Albums

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The Low End Theory

A Tribe Called Quest


A history lesson placing hip-hop within the broader history of Black music.

In the wake of the release of A Tribe Called Quest’s first album, 1990’s stellar People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, critics who had previously ignored hip-hop sat up and took notice of Q-Tip’s sophisticated and unorthodox productions and Phife Dawg’s party-rocking, self-deprecating rhymes. But those critics often overlooked Tribe’s far-reaching roots in the hip-hop underground and their larger place in the history of Black music in general. The Low End Theory was in many ways a conscious attempt to redress these oversights. It also happens to be one of the finest hip-hop albums ever recorded.

From the sinuous Art Blakey samples and myth-making rhymes of “Excursions” to the joyous free-for-all of the epic posse cut “Scenario,” The Low End Theory connects the dots between jazz and the work of like-minded New York rap contemporaries like De La Soul and Brand Nubian, drawing on everything from the crowd-hyping improvisations of their early park jams to the complex sciences of Golden Age rhyming styles.