Today in Hip Hop History: September 24, 1991
Jazz/hip hop fusion trio A Tribe Called Quest released their classic sophomore effort, The Low End Theory, through Jive Records in 1991. The album was a follow-up to their sensational debut album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, which they released in 1990. The Low End Theory was produced by ATCQ themselves with outside help from Skeff Anselm. It featured the likes of Diamond D, Lord Jamar, Sadat X, Busta Rhymes, Dinco D, Vinia Mojica, Charlie Brown and Ron Carter.
The Low End Theory was one of the first hip hop albums to fuse a jazz atmosphere with hip hop. ATCQ even went as far as hiring a double bassist, Ron Carter, to play on “Verses from the Abstract,” to give the authentic jazz bass feel (Random fact: Ron only agreed to play on the song if it contained no profanity). Following the huge success of their debut, many hinted at a sophomore jinx, to which Q-Tip exclaimed “Sophomore jinx? What the fuck is that, I’m going to make The Low End Theory.” Clearly the group felt no pressure to create another classic, and history reminds us that they thought correctly.
The album helped shape alternative hip hop into what is became in the 1990’s. Alongside De La Soul, ATCQ spearheaded the backpacker rap explosion that occurred in the 1990’s. The sub-genre fused the two genres of jazz and hip hop together, resulting in an amazing culture clash that had not happened at such a significant level before.
The album peaked at #45 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and #13 on the U.S. Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. It became RIAA Certified Platinum in 1995. Instantaneously, The Low End Theory was applauded as a classic. Rolling Stone ranked it at #154 in their “Greatest Albums of All Time” list, The Source rated it at a perfect 5/5 Mics and several other publications have given it numerous accolades. The Low End Theory remains one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time; citing its ingenuity and consistency as it’s timeless elements to the entire genre of hip hop.