Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory


This is without a doubt one of the best hip hop records ever made, hands down.  Not only is it ground breaking in its use of jazz samples expertly produced into some of the greatest beats in the genre, the lyrics are smart, funny and relevant to the times, while pretty much avoiding any profanity (well, okay there is a little, but compared to most other records in the genre, this is almost squeaky clean).

Cited by scholarly types as being a generational link between the old (jazz) and new (hip hop), The Low End Theory uses a diverse array of samples from many artists including Miles Davis, Average White Band, Steve Miller, Minnie Ripperton, Sly Stone, The Last Poets and James Brown.  But it is really quite a hard job to spot any sample in particular, such is the genius of Quest's production.

I’ve not heard this album for some time, but listening to it was reminded why I loved this era of hip hop.  The production is clean and relatively uncluttered, the beats are fat and simple and the flow is playful and intelligent at the same time.  And while they approach a number of different issues, they do so with tact and don't sound preachy.  No wonder it keeps making appearances in greatest 90s albums lists: it is near perfect and where it isn’t, well, it only adds to the overall charm.



I was wondering why I hadn't played this album - given that I'm a big acid jazz fan and have a bunch of Tribe songs on my Rebirth of Cool compilations.  I have no answer for that.  This is my kinda music - albeit it's a little heavier on the rap than I prefer, they still have the great melody lines and jazz samples I spent most of the mid-90's listening to.

I was almost certain I'd seen these guys too, but a short consultation with Dr Google tells me they toured here for the first time ever this year (damn it, why didn't I know that?).  Must be getting mixed up with some other acid jazzy dudes.  Maxi Priest, Ronny Jordan - there were a bunch of 'em.

I guess I get a bit confused with YourZ calling them a hip-hop act - because I just don't see them that way.  What this conjures up to me is long nights playing pool at Kinselas, drinking vodka tonics with my Kiwi friend Anne and working out how we were going to make it to next payday, given that we were going out four nights a week.


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