The Low End Theory - Check The Scenario, son

Dec 29, 2002 (Updated Sep 3, 2009)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Production, Lyrics, and Concepts that would influence a generation...

Cons:A bit lengthy and a couple of misteps here and there

The Bottom Line: Great Album through and through - worth every penny.


Every once and a while an album comes along that has a VERY unique feel and changes your view on music. These albums inspire not only us, but fellow artists in the genre. A Tribe Called Quest made their splash about two decades ago with People's Instinctive Travels in the Paths of Rhythm, which earned a huge critical acclaim and was quite successful. I personally feel the album is overrated.

Regardless of whether you believe me or not or agree with me or not, fact is, it wasn't until the release the hit single "Scenario" and The Low End Theory that people began to take notice of the Tribe. In the hip hop subculture, The Low End Theory made Q-Tip and Phife Dawg household names. Released in 1991, The Low End Theory is close to being an excellent album - maybe a little too close. In fact, it probably is. With beefed up production, a new focus on street poetry, and more creativity in their songwriting, A Tribe Called Quest came to impress and they certainly did.

A lot of the material on the album finds Q-Tip and Phife approaching the microphone as more mature emcees than the last go-round. "Excursions" opens the album with lyrics about coming up as a music fan and exploding ("I said, well daddy don't you know that things go in cycles // The way that Bobby Brown is just ampin like Michael // Its all expected, things are for the lookin // If you got the money, Quest is for the bookin". See geeks - even THEY rapped about money. "Butter" is another storytelling "I Love Hip Hop" track. "The Infamous Date Rape" is probably the best storytelling track on the album and one of the early "Vagina Kills" songs in hip hop. "Everything is Fair" is an awesome pre-Illmatic 'burbs tale of struggle in the streets. In addition, "Rap Promoter" was one of the FIRST SONGS to ever talk about the evils of greedy record company executives and their ability to manipulate, abuse, and/or insult artists. These are great examples of the creativity found on The Low End Theory; they were doing things that other rappers copied hundreds of times; in 1991!

In addition, there are moments where the Tribe spits braggadocious lyrics - but who didn't back in those days? "Check the Rhime", "Jazz (We've Got)", "Vibes and Stuff", and "Verses from the Abstract" are all prime examples of Q-Tip taking the bull by the horns and spitting hot fire. Q-Tip was one of the most consistent rappers of the age and it's a shame he's fallen off so hard. "Some say that I'm a sinner cuz I once had an orgy // and sometimes for breakfast I eat grits and porgies."

There are other songs that are, well, a little toooo abstract. "What" might be creative in the sense that it was a track where the backbone was basically the alliteration, and this makes for a whacky song. Remember Jadakiss' "Why" and how everybody was buzzing over that. Yeah - this is the same thing except 15 years prior. "Skypager" doesn't do much for me. A song about a device that no longer exists has issues being timeless. It's like Nelly's "Air Force Ones" - except ten times more dated (and ten times more listenable).

The two standout tracks, to me, are the massive posse cuts. "Show Business" rounds out the album with an all-star cast of dope emcees. Lord Jamar, Diamond D, and Sadat X bring the heat and blaze the mic. Phife Dawg, surprisingly, winds up stealing the show. Of course, there's "Scenario", arguably the Tribe's biggest hit and the song a lot of rap experts can point to as starting the career of Busta Rhymes. ATCQ is joined by the Leaders of the New School (who ironically, are old now) in a masterpiece of a hip hop track. Everybody comes correct on here, but it's Busta and Q-Tip, the two biggest stars, who shine the brightest. Busta's infamous "'RRRRRROAW RRRRRRROAW like a dungeon dragon" is STILL talked about to this day.

The argument as to whether The Low End Theory or Midnight Marrauders is the best Tribe album will continue amongst backpacker/old school fans until the end of time. If you were to ask me though, Midnight Marrauders edges out the win - if only by a nose (and a small one, not like an Armo nose). Still, The Low End Theory was the first step in the Tribe changing hip hop, even though they didn't even know about it then. These two albums are essential for any rap fan's collection.

Track List & Rating

1. Excursions (*****)
2. Buggin' Out (****)
3. Rap Promoter (*****)
4. Butter (*****)
5. Verses From the Abstract (****)
6. Show Business f/ Diamond D, Lord Jamar & Sadat X (*****)
7. Vibes and Stuff (****)
8. Infamous Date Rape (******)
9. Check the Rhime (*****)
10. Everything Is Fair (*****)
11. Jazz (We've Got) (****)
12. Skypager (***)
13. What? (****)
14. Scenario f/ Leaders of the New School (******)

5 Stars


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