Within every musical genre, there are a few select albums that are both definitive and transcendent. Upon their release, these albums often are deemed masterpieces, and over the course of time, prove to have seismic impact in pushing music forward. In hip-hop, A Tribe Called Quest’s sophomore album, The Low End Theory, is among the most cited, in that regard.
Released on September 24, 1991, The Low End Theory followed Tribe’s 1990 debut, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, which is regarded as a classic in its own right. It spawned timeless singles like “Can I Kick It” and “Bonita Applebum.” But while their first outing is a praiseworthy effort, The Low End Theory would prove to be a tour de force of groundbreaking rap tunes and is considered a signature record in the group’s superior discography.
After only appearing on four songs on A Tribe Called Quest’s debut, Phife Dawg would have an increased presence on this outing, letting off a barrage of battle-ready verses littered with quotables galore. His performances on key selections like “Scenario,” “Check The Rhime,” “Buggin’ Out,” and “We’ve Got The Jazz” soldified his standing as more than a glorified stand-in, but a formidable MC in his own right.
The Low End Theory would also see Q-Tip’s evolution, both as an MC and a boardsman, continue to become evident to any one peeping the sage-like verses or reading the production credits. Ali Shaheed Muhammed, A Tribe Called Quest’s oft unsung third member, continued to be a catalyst on the production and conceptual on the project as well. He served as the glue that helped keep the unit as one.
Since it’s release, The Low End Theory has been lauded as one of the greatest albums of all-time, regardless of genre, and has influenced many of the biggest artists in rap, including Pharrell and Kanye West.
In celebration of this landmark release, we’ve dug up 20 facts about The Low End Theory that may catch you by surprise.