Friday, July 29, 2016

99. A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory

Flickr Download DeviantArt

Following up the sunny day illustration from their happy-go-lucky debut, Tribe went decidedly darker on the cover for the more mature (and classic) The Low End Theory. Painting the contours of an invisible
model's body with  glow-in-the-dark paint,  the red, green, and black image was sexy and  Afrocentric all at once—a delicate balance that mirrored  Tribe's jazz-heavy sound at the time.  The iconic imagery
would continue to pop up throughout Tribe's career (gracing the covers of their next two albums), making the painted lady hip-hop's most recognizable mascot.  Stripped-down, stylish, and original, The Low
End Theory is everything a great rap album cover should be. Andrew Noz, The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Album Covers

On this work, the original  album cover art design is at left but the  band's name in the model's  midsection is replaced with the album title.  The original image was then flipped and was pasted at right and
the band's  name in the model's  midsection was  replaced with the unflipped letters.  The band's name  was then  added on the back  of the model using letters  cut-out from the original image.  Finally, the
colours on the image at right were inverted. 

The Low End Theory was one of the first  records to fuse hip hop with a laid-back jazz atmosphere.  Ali Shaheed Muhammad  along with Q-Tip and Phife Dawg showcase how rap was done before commercial
success influenced many rappers' creativity.  The album's minimalist sound is "stripped to the essentials: vocals, drums, and bass."  The bass drum and vocals emphasize the downbeat on every track.  Engineer
Bob Power has been quoted numerous times calling the album, "The Sgt. Pepper's of hip hop" referring to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band released by The Beatles in 1967. wikipedia

Here is the original album cover art design.

No. 52, Entertainment Weekly, The 100 Greatest Albums Ever; No. 153, Rolling Stone, The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time;
No. 414, The Virgin All-Time Album Top 1000.

Artwork (design) by Jean Kelly (ZombArt JK), handlettering by Nick Gamma (ZombArt NG), photo by Joe Grant.
Album produced by A Tribe Called Quest, Skeff Anselm. Jive, RCA 1991.

The Low End Theory helped shape alternative hip hop in the 1990s.  It established the musical, cultural and historical link  between hip hop and jazz.  The album was considered an instant classic with a
5 mics rating in The Source. Reviewer Reef lauded their "progressive sound" and "streetwise edge". Writer Oliver Wang called the album "a consummate link between generations", which took the essence
of jazz and hip hop and "showing they originated  from the same black center."  The group's  "mellow innovations"  helped jazz rap gain significant  exposure from 1992 to 1993.  Rolling Stone ranked the
album at number 154 in "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time",  stating that "people connected  the dots between hip-hop and jazz - both were  revolutionary forms of black music based in improvisation
and flow - but A Tribe Called Quest's second album drew the entire picture."

In Time magazine's "All-Time 100" albums, Josh Tyrangiel called the record an exception to jazz rap often being
"wishful thinking  on the part of critics".  He described the  album as "socially conscious without  being dull" and
likened a few tracks to  "smokey rooms where cool guys. . .  say cool things."  The Low End Theory was voted at
number thirty-two in The Village Voice's 1991 Pazz & Jop critics poll. AllMusic writer John Bush, who declared it
"the most  consistent  and  flowing  hip-hop  album  ever  recorded",  summed up  the record as  "an unqualified
success,  the  perfect  marriage  of  intelligent,  flowing  raps  to  nuanced,   groove-centered  productions."  On
February 1, 1995, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album platinum.
wikipedia, abridged.

(A) Excursions - Buggin' Out - Rap Promoter - Butter

(B) Verses from the Abstract - Show Business - Vibes and Stuff

(C) The Infamous Date Rape - Check the Rhime - Everything is Fair

(D) Jazz (We've Got) - Skypager - What? - Scenario