Producers Speak on the Influence of A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory

From Q-Tip’s opening lines, “back in the day when I was a teenager,” over a funky bassline on “Excursions,” to Busta Rhymes’ rambunctious roar in “Scenario,” A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory was excellence exemplified. Note for note, rhyme for rhyme and concept for concept, Tip, Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhammed released a groundbreaking opus 20 years ago today September 24).

In a time where hip-hop was at one its most diverse points, with groups ranging from N.W.A to Nice and Smooth, Tribe redefined themselves from sandal-wearing hipsters, to down to earth around the way kids who resonated with everywhere. The LP was a coming out party for Phife, who stepped up to the mic with laid back ferocity and also introduced Busta as possibly the best go-to cameo guy in history. Meanwhile, Tip stepped up his penetrating poetry while he and Ali Shaheed Muhammad fused jazz with hip-hop and set blueprints for MCs such as Kanye West.

XXL spoke to a few producers about Tribe’s timeless concoction.—Shaheem Reid with additional reporting by Adam Fleischer

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  • Hip Hop Since 85

    As far as groups go, Tribe is in the top 4 or 5 greatest of all times… Of course you have in no certain order,
    Run DMC, Tribe, Oukast, NWA, 2 Live Crew….(I know-I know…) but in the late 80′s and and early 90′s) they (2 Live) had the radio on complete lock down. Tribe was a great group though, you felt like hip hop when the album came on, AND THEN, when that midnight Maurauders came out—WRAP!!! Nothing like it….

    • illionaire603

      That is a weak ass top 5 group, Wu should def be up there you crazy, Wu, Tribe, Outkast, BCC, De La Soul

      Or you could even throw in NWA if you want, or Brand Nubian, but you’re gonna throw 2 live crew in? whack.

    • smokey

      You’re hella old if you think 2 live, Run-DMC, and NWA deserve to be up there. They were all influencial but no where near the best. Run-DMC was hella simple, even for thier time, 2 Live was fun but thats it and their run was only a lil while, and NWA was cool for Straight out of Compton but after Cube left they lost all direction.

  • billy blank

    how the fuck can u put 2live crew in ur top 5 groups of all time but not WU-TANG…….F.O.H.

    • d

      hahahaha….EXACTLY! wtf

  • iamlegend100

    Damn, Tribe is legendary, lyrics to go, God lives through, clap your hands, f*ck it the whole Midnight Marauders album was a str8 up classic, the low end theory was the truth 2 but Midnight was and will always be one of the best hip hop albums of all time hands down, bar none!!!

    • ptc


  • oskamadison

    @ Hip Hop since 85…

    Your inclusion of 2 Live Crew caught me off guard as well but…EVERYBODY HAS A RIGHT TO THEIR OWN OPINION! No one’s “top 5″ list is any better or wacker than anyone else’s. That being said…
    I always respected The Low End Theory but I’m probably in the minority that actually prefers People’s Instinctive Travel’s…to TLET. I just like the vibe of the first one better. Their BEST joint is of course Midnight Marauders. Their most slept-on joint (not just in their catalog but in Hip-Hop, period) is Beats, Rhymes and Life. Damn…doesn’t it seem like The Love Movement never even happened?