In 91 I was in my second year at senior school and I had become obsessed with hip hop. It was the thing that took me away from the problems at home. The transformation was quick, all it took was a tape placement in to my trusty sony walkman and I was off and the head nods took over. So you could say on some levels hip hop was my saviour but it was also the catalyst for some other issues. Kids at my school would call me a variety of nasty names because I listened "to that black talking crap" but all that did was make me stronger in my love of the music and culture. I guess you could say I wore it as a badge of honour. My friends Will and his younger brother James would suffer racism also because they had a black father and white mother. The hate I heard directed at them was pure evil. Through the music we formed a strong bond and rolled as a crew for the rest of our school years and college. We have all lost touch now which is a shame but thats how life goes I expect. I imagine if we were to see each other now we would still kick it like we always used to. That's how family is right?


Now we all had groups we liked, loved and straight up hated. We would argue who was a better mc, producer and dj all day long but there was one group who we all agreed on and that was A Tribe Called Quest. I think in a funny way we wanted to be them. We used to mess around with our other friend Ian's mismatched technics and dusty old mixer, scratching and cutting badly and spitting our own versions of our heros verses. Those were the days!

We knew from The Source and HHC that a new Tribe album was coming but we didn't know when. Don't forget we were 12! For that twelfth birthday in Feb. 1991 I had been bought a cd/tape player stereo combo. It was cheap and did the job. I had been bought that and also saved up for a few tapes. The tape I was waiting for the most was the Tribe album. I don't recall us knowing what it was called until we saw adverts in The Source. You see back then kids everything was far more enjoyable because of the mystery that is missing today. All we knew was that it was dropping in september. It seemed ages away! I used to bug the guys at the local music store every Saturday to see if they knew when it was coming. I used to annoy the shit out of them but they always did right by me back then.


It might have been the last weekend in September when I walked in to the store, made my way to the counter and asked the now familiar question but this time the answer was the one I wanted! It had arrived. The Low End Theory was here and was mine. I got my wallet from my backpack and proceeded to count out the weeks and weeks of pound coins I had been saving. I'm sure you'll all agree that feelings like this are the ones that never leave you.

I got the bus home which felt like ages. Did the driver not understand the situation?! I got in, yelled to my mmm that they had it and marched upstairs. Mmm was great with my music taste and would always spot samples etc. When my dad wasn't around she would have me play the albums downstairs. Her fav from those days was and still is Daily Operation.

Stereo was turned on, tape deck was open and waiting to take its musical medicine. I peeled the seal off and dropped the tape in.........

'Excursions' was the start. The first verse was saying exactly what my mlm would always tell me about the music of her youth and how it shapes the music of the future. It was like hearing our conversation on tape but voiced by Tip. His vocals hadn't missed a step since the first album and it felt like they had improved. 3 verses filled with knowledge. I'm not gonna front and say I understood each line on that first listen but what I will say is that over repeated plays the understanding of the jewels he dropped became clearer. I guess thats the power of music. The beat was something moodier than had come before from the group. It felt more adult to my young ears. Now I would say it implies a jaded nature towards the record industry but at the time to my young ears it was menacing with more pounding drums. The drums were a theme that ran through the album.

'Buggin' Out' was next and new a mc super hero was born. Phife Dawg. On the first album he was there but not in what anyone could say was a crucial role. Tip had the captivating voice. Phife I thought was just the hype man. I had got that very wrong. Phife kicked in the door with his New Balances on this track. It was is statement of intent. Thats how it felt to my young ears. Tip was the educated rapper and Phife had more of a street vibe, the ruffneck steez. The beats had that tough bass and crisp drums that my ears were craving. Neck snapping vibes and then some.

'Rap Promoter' was a good track that at the time didn't mean a great lot to me. I guess it resonates with those of you who went on to preform on stages where shady promoters don't give up the cash like they should. I've been to some shows where the tension has been 100% because of delays to the acts coming on stage. I guess thats what Tip was getting at. I saw a Beatnuts show once. 20 mins is not what I paid for! The beat on this was ill.

'Butter' was completely Phife's jam. He really goes in on the ladies. He makes it clear that he runs through many of them and his dislikes and likes style wise. There is clearly no middle ground! The beat is as smooth as the title suggested but yet again has the strong drums that this album is known for. I remember thinking at the time where does this knowledge of music to sample come from. As a kid looking at my parents records I could never see how a single groove of music could be flipped in to something else entirely. Thats the genius of this and other albums of it's era. Creativity was at an all time high.

'Verses from the abstract' seemed back then as it does the now to be the best track to follow 'Butter' because it's another solo jam. Tip really sets out who he is and what he represents in the 90's. It gave me the impression back then that he was in someways telling us who he is and what he stands for, Like a little history mixed up with a statement of intent. The upright bass was provided by the legend Ron Carter and takes the beat to another level. Classic in the true sense of the word. I have found that over the years it's been a much discussed track.

'Show business' really needs no explanation. It's a brilliant expo on the dodgy world of the the record industry and the pitfalls that it presents. The guests make it even doper and it introduced me to Diamond D so fond memories are attached to this. Sadat X & Lord Jammar come correct as ever. The beat is a little more upbeat but fits in perfectly with the overall vibes.

'Vibes and stuff' was the closest thing to a full on jazz joint that i'd heard in my early teen years. The shuffling sound of the beat still to this day sends chills down my spine. It feels complex but yet again simple which is the enduring appeal of Tribe. The title is perfect. I've never really broken down the lyrics to be honest, they are skilled as ever but the beat has always dominated my ears! Maybe one day I will.

'The infamous date rape' is a track that is up for discussion all these years on. What does it mean to you?


'Check the rhime' is a personal favorite of mine. The beat is sublime in its construction, it glides along. The crown glory of the track comes from the back and forth rhyming of Tip & Phife. It's like a little personal history lesson for the listener. It gave me the feeling that they had a brotherhood that could never be broken. It's said to think of the tensions they had over the years but thats life. Tribe for me have always reflected life in one form or another.

'Everything is fair' back then made me want to dance for some reason. I can still recall that! I can't dance, this white boy can't jump or dance. Facts. It has the most infectious beat, It feels now like to could happily be on both this and the first classic album. Again not really ever thought about the lyrics except they fit the beat perfectly. Sometimes the words don't matter right? I know that will offend some but I stand by what I said. I love lyrics, if you know me on a personal tip you know that to be true but there are times when the beat is king. Another fact for you.


'Jazz' for me has one of the best beats on the whole album bar one track. This to me on of the strong examples of why Tip is one of the best mc's to me. Just listen to it and tell me different. I feel like he is saying that this is the new jazz with it's creativity. A new movement for the culture. Phife also comes correct. Back then as now I reckon that for the group wanted to push the boundaries of both hip hop and the wider world of music but in a casual not aggressive way. A quiet revolution perhaps?

'Sky pager' details the pro's and cons of the pager. Not much to be said on this subject as we all know the trouble texting can land us in! It's a great time capsule of a track I reckon.

'What' poses many questions, how about we answer them? I'll list them in the comments section if you ask? Lets debate them! I think I've tried to answer them over the years a few times.


'Scenario' brings the album to a close in such a grand fashion. When I first heard this it completely blew my tiny teenage mind!! The beat was a big monster that had broke lose from it's cage. Each member of LONS rides the beat to perfection but it's really stolen by Busta at the end. Tip leads him in and then he destroys it like only he can.

For weeks after I listened to the album over and over. It seemed to be a rich listening experience that got richer. It was a big album on a stereo and also an intimate listening session on my walkman. Thats the enduring power of this album. I felt like I had one up on the dickheads at school. Myself, Will, James and our other mate Ian felt like we were part of a special club. Hip Hop brought us together and we had a good run as friends but in the end time changes that and people drift apart. Thats a part of life and I except that. Maybe thats the way ATCQ look at it. They created something that can never be recreated or matched. Life is made up of moments in time defined in a variety of ways. For Tribe its the music they made.


  1. Nice write-up. Always good to see personal experiences with music rather than screeds that seem as if the author is stating facts even though enjoyment of music is TOTALLY subjective

    1. Strictly Cassette18.12.12

      You just summed up the theme of this entire blog. Music is best experienced through the ears of a fan. If you notice all the stories/articles we post up, it is often told from this perspective. Save the academic write ups for Wikipedia!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.