A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory (1991)
Best release date in history?
September 24, 1991 would be a contender.
Nevermind, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the U.S. release of Waking Up The Neighbours (critical darling, BA is not, but do I have to say the words, I’m a fan!), plus new releases from Van Morrison, Heart, and the sophomore record by A Tribe Called Quest.
Some records are timeless; The Low End Theory is very much of its time. References to Bobby Brown, Belle Biv Devoe and Arsenio Hall aren’t quite as topical as they once were.
I must admit though, I generally embrace any song/film/show that announced “it’s the 90s.” As a tribute to this early 90s conversational phenomenon, I continue to say, ‘Hey, it’s the 90s’ much to my own amusement & much more frequently than I probably should.
Sounding like 1991 is not necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, that’s the beauty of escapism through music. I love being transported back to a time and place and this does the trick nicely. It reminds me of coming home after school and watching Fresh Prince of Belair. When Will was still at Belair Prep. With the original Aunt Viv.
It would be a mistake to categorize this as merely a throwback record. There’s a nice sparseness to the backing tracks (mostly drums, bass), the lyrics have substance, and with the jazz elements throughout, it’s far from ordinary.
In the Steve Berman (Skit) on the Marshall Mathers LP, the character Steve observes:
“You know why Dre’s record was so successful?
He’s rappin’ about big-screen T.V.s, blunts, 40s and bitches.”
Hard to deny the sales volumes, but that sort of generic, self-aggrandizing subject matter is also a major genre deterrent for some otherwise open-minded music fans.
So did The Low End Theory outsell The Chronic? It’s unlikely that socially conscious hip hop will ever move the same quantities.
At least it’s nice to know a niche exists for issue-driven, creative albums of this quality.