“I’m an artist and I have visions that I try to capture on records, but they don’t always come out the way I see them. For me it’s about being invested in the work and striving for the best music that you can put out there. But Tribe was never thinking about what we could do commercially on The Low End Theory. We didn’t think about any of that. Of course you want to make a gold or platinum album, but we just had confidence in what we were doing. And we had confidence in our music, so that allowed us to stay in our lane musically and still be successful.
My opening verse on ‘Excursions’ was very personal. It was all about my dad. A lot of people don’t know about my father, but we had a real tight relationship. When he passed away it was just tough. So that song was about my excursions of traveling in my mind. It was my travel man manifesto. I remember listening to the Treacherous Three with my dad. I was playing the record where they were going, ‘Rock the body, body, rock the body, body…So Special K, hey, what’s it gonna be?!!!…’ And my dad was like, ‘Man, this sounds like someone scatting on a jazz record.’ He saw the connection.
I remember when we shot the video for ‘Check the Rhime.’ It was very hot that day; I think it was 105 degrees and we had to get through the shoot before it rained! That’s all I was thinking about. My head was on business: ‘Let’s get these shots off. We’ve been out here since 5 in the morning…let’s get it done before it rains.’ When you are in the middle of history you don’t really take time to smell the roses. I really didn’t have time. Everything was happening so fast.
I always knew that Phife was a dope MC, otherwise I wouldn’t have fucked with him [laughs]. But it was all about drive. I told him that he had to come with it on Low End Theory. And he did. He killed it. I think you really hear it on ‘Butter.’ That was a great song for him. Back then, using jazz samples on songs like ‘Jazz (‘We’ve Got’)’ was still uncharted territory socially for our generation and musically as well. There was a lot of improvisation going on. I just found that whole jazz artform interesting.
People always talk about the [illustrated] lady on The Low End Theory cover. It was my idea at that time because I just felt like everything of beauty is related to a woman when it comes to our civilization. We usually speak of things of beauty as women. And to me hip-hop is a thing of beauty, so the cover shows a red, black and green black lady on the cover. She was a woman that was naked on the cover, but she represented hip-hop. By the time The Low End Theory came out, everybody started to take notice of Tribe. Everybody was talking about the album from Dr. Dre to Chuck D. When Rakim said he liked Tribe that was amazing to me!”