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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

The Low End Theory

A Tribe Called Quest

1991

Buy At Rough Trade
The Low End Theory
Album Summary

The Low End Theory is the second studio album by American hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, released on September 24, 1991, by Jive Records. Recording sessions for the album were held mostly at Battery Studios in New York City, from 1990 to 1991. The album was primarily produced by group member Q-Tip, with a minimalist sound that combines bass, drum breaks, and jazz samples, in a departure from the group's debut album, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990). Lyrically, the album features social commentary, word play, humor, and interplay between group members Q-Tip and Phife Dawg. Supported by the lead single "Check the Rhime", The Low End Theory debuted at number 45 on the Billboard 200 chart. Upon its release, the album's commercial potential was doubted by music critics and Jive record executives. However, the release of two additional singles, "Jazz (We've Got)" and "Scenario", brought further attention and popularity to the group. On February 19, 1992, the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), with shipments of 500,000 copies in the United States, and on February 1, 1995, it was certified platinum by the RIAA, with shipments of one million copies. In the years since its release, The Low End Theory has garnered recognition from music critics and writers as a milestone in alternative hip-hop. The album is regarded as Phife Dawg's breakout and is credited for helping launch rapper Busta Rhymes's successful solo career. The album's influence on artists in hip-hop, R&B and other genres has been attributed to the group's lyricism and Q-Tip's production, which bridged the gap between jazz and hip-hop. The album is widely regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time, appearing on many best album lists by music critics and writers. In 2020, it was ranked at number 43 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2022, the album was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Wikipedia

Rating

3.7

Votes

11843
Genres
Hip Hop

Reviews

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Tue Dec 29 2020
5

Geeze, this is a great album. Another cornerstone crew of hiphop, Tribe is just... just great. They defined the genre for a whole generation of artists and their influence continues to be felt in the work of artists like Childish Gambino, Chance the Rapper, and more. The way that the verses are built over hooky boom-bap beats is compelling, neither element distracting from the other but each remaining engaging individually. So good. Just so damn good.

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Fri Aug 13 2021
5

Devastatingly cool and smooth. This album can be enjoyed in the background, with beats that go on for days, or with an intensive focus, with lyrics that bend and twist in delightful ways. This 1001 albums list is making me realize that I'm a much bigger fan of hip hop and rap than I initially thought.

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Wed Oct 21 2020
5

An album I didn't even need to listen to for the rating. Absolute classic Native Tongues, and maybe my favorite. The entirety of the second half of this album has a sequencing and flow unlike many of its kind. All are highlights.

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Fri Jan 29 2021
4

Jazz and hip-hop were meant to be together. Just good fun, old school hip-hop. The fact that this album ends with Scenerio just shows how full of solid tracts this album is. 4/5

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Fri Nov 06 2020
5

One of the greatest hip hop album ever. I really love the jazzy vibes.

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Sat Nov 13 2021
3

Not a huge hip hop fan and this album didn’t change that. A few songs have some slightly interesting “jazz” vibes (If you call a simplistic repetitive phrase with slightly unusual chords “jazz”), but all in all I still don’t get the hype. It’s 4/4 repetitive rhythmns with rhyming. 3 stars since it’s a foundational album for many subsequent artists and my bias gives it the benefit of the doubt, but I really don’t see what’s so special about it myself.

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Wed Dec 30 2020
5

One of the best hip hop album ever.

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Thu Sep 02 2021
5

Rap and hip-hop isn't my inherent wheelhouse. I didn't grow up listening to it, I don't listen to a lot of modern hits, and most of what I listen to is make or break for me. This album just CLICKS with me, though. The smooth, jazzy backbeats, the atmospheric and melodic instrumentation, Phife and Q-Tip's fun and flowing lyrics...it's just the perfect rap album in my mind. It's influenced so many different artists today: Kanye, Pharrell, Dr. Dre, Lin Manuel-Miranda, Kendrick, Dave Chapelle...there's hardly any entertainer or artist that isn't inspired or owes something to this album. Everything from its structure, emotion, and production is top notch. Favorite Song: What? Least Favorite: Ahh...this is so hard...Show Business? Everything is so good, though. Least Favorite: Sagar (The Ocean) ... only because of it's slow start and it's a pretty long song. It's still a great piece, just not one I'd revisit as much.

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Fri Jan 15 2021
4

Day 3 of 1001 albums you must hear before you die and I got my first hip hop album!! The 1991 sophomore album from the groundbreaking group A Tribe Called Quest. The Low End Theory was a follow up to their debut album People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, which was the first album to receive the then prestigious award of 5 mics in The Source magazine. The Low End Theory was released slap dab in the middle of The New Jack Swing era, gangster rap and the times of huge pop successes of acts like MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice. Instead of making music about guns, girls, money and dancing, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg let their commentary about social issues spill onto jazz samples and record samples spun by DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad. The classic New York sound of jazz infused hip hop seems so natural now, looking back, however it was Tribe that founded the iconic sound that was considered alternative hip hop at the time. The biggest stand out of this album is Scenario. This monster of a song is credited for boosting the solo career of Busta Rhymes and is a fantastic energetic song. The lead single Check the Rhime is a nostalgic ride through the early 90’s. Q-Tip has one of the most unique voices in music and his back and forward exchanges with a much different sounding Phife gels so satisfyingly well together. (RIP Phife Dawg) This group paved the way for so many acts and inspired the culture so much it’s almost as if it had always been that way. Please share your thoughts and memories of this album. This is only my take on it and being that I was in elementary school when this released, it would be great to hear others perspective! 😎

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Tue Jul 27 2021
2

It made me so soft, my cock ring fell off in the supermarket.

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Fri Dec 10 2021
2

I liked a few songs. the stripped down drum, bass, vocals thing really does work, BUT it only works for a few songs for me. After 3 or 4 I find myself getting bored. I know that's blasphemy to some, but I just find that I don't really click with hip-hop.

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Sun Mar 06 2022
2

This is so boring. Can anyone really tell these songs apart from any other hip-hop/rap songs? The album description in apple music mentioned something about a jazz aesthetic. What does that even mean? Jazz is about interesting variations on a melody, which is the opposite of a canned beat. Also, it is impossible to follow the lyrics unless you pay attention all the time. What happened to songs having a chorus to sing along to?

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Tue Oct 27 2020
5

Classic hip-hop shit. Standout Tracks: Buggin' Out, Butter, Verses from the Abstract, What?, Scenario

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Thu Jan 14 2021
5

Favorites: All Widely considered one of the greatest hip hop albums. Hugely influential in bridging the gap between jazz and hip hop

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Tue Aug 10 2021
5

Absolute classic that set a standard for the genre. Excellent samples create a jazzy atmosphere that match up with the great lyrical team up of Q-Tip and Phife Dawg. One of the best albums in 90s hip-hop and an absolute must listen.

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Mon Sep 27 2021
5

I love this. Smart, cool, jazzy, intellectual. No drugs, minimal cursing - and I love both of those things. But it's just a very refreshing vibe. Can see why its a classic.

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Wed Oct 13 2021
5

I like how this album is poetry about their lives, trying to understand themselves and describing how they saw their lives. It's slow, smooth, and honest. 5/5

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Wed Oct 20 2021
5

OK here's another group i've heard so much about but I don't know if I've ever listened to - was far too much into guitar rock at the time but *wow* I missed out on this. Or maybe I wasn't ready - but this is the kind of hip-hop I love. Should I even categorize it merely as hip-hop? Because forget the rap for a minute - the first thing I'll ever notice on any album is the music and the music *KILLS* here. It's impossible to not move to the opening track "Excursions" - there's a hard jazz element with heavy drum loops (no 808s - and although these are samples they sample the real deal which IMO is always better. Always.) and the album never lets up at all. The music mostly isn't loud and in your face, but at the same time it propels and is never dull. I want to hear and see them performing this entire album with a full band - I can hear it translating brilliantly. Moving to the actual vocals I *love* the attack of multiple rappers (and as big a Public Enemy fan I am, and Chuck D is the best, Flav is a sideshow...) - it works so well on every song - including the guest spots (e.g. "Show Business"). I think my favourite aspect of the rapping is how rhythmic they are - accentuating, complimenting, and becoming *part* of the music - so much more than a ton of modern hip-hop that I just haven't been able to connect with. It's hard for me to find a favourite, but some other standouts are "Verses From The Abstract" "Check the Rhime" and "Jazz." Tribe feel like a BAND on every track here, rather than rapping over a beat - it's an integrated experience. This defines cool in every way and I'm psyched to add this to my collection - if there's any negative, it seems to tail off on the last few tracks - nothing bad, just loses a little steam. But the highs are so good that for only the second time in ~150 albums I've gone in completely blind and come out looking at 5 stars... 9/10 5 stars.

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Tue Nov 30 2021
5

A landmark album in hip-hop, and one of the father's of jazz rap. The beats are great, the lyrics are clever and impactful, and it's just generally fun all around. And then they came out with Midnight Marauders too... Favourite Tracks: Buggin Out, Vibes and Stuff, Scenario

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Thu Dec 02 2021
5

Do you know the importance of a Skypa-jah? Love, love, love. Saw TCQ tour this album at the Flood Zone with Busta Rhymes. They went out with Scenario and the whole place was going wild! The Low End Theory is contaminated with all the good post-high school memories, there's no way that I could provide an unbiased review today. ----- Equally as good is the TCQ doc. Highly recommend. https://www.amazon.com/Beats-Rhymes-Life-Travels-Called/dp/B005LM7KP0

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Mon Dec 06 2021
5

Essential 90's hip hop starts and ends with A Tribe Called Quest. Q-Tip and Phife Dawg (RIP) expertly spit bars over fantastic jazz beats. The opening moments of the album with the bass of Excursions is neigh-unforgettable, setting up expectations for the rest of the album's runtime. The Tribe has the stage: now is the time to listen. The vibes on this album are perfection. It's so incredibly mellow, like hanging out with your friends, chillin'.

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Mon Jan 24 2022
5

Great raps and awesome flow from ATCQ with beats and grooves that are jazzy, deep and sparse, but thick as molasses and warm as butter. Even taking into account ‘The Infamous Date Rape’ which sounds like a rare misstep coming at it with 2022 ears, ‘The Low End Theory’ is still one of Hip Hops greatest hits.

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Fri Apr 01 2022
5

Genre: Jazz Rap 5/5 This is very, very, very good. An album that sounds old-school, but with arrangements and concepts that are fresh to the ears as anything on this list, The Low End Theory is one of the best rap albums I've ever heard. The absolute vocal dominance showcased by everyone on this, especially the two kingpins, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg (RIP), is truly some of rap's best. The songs that everyone has heard, Scenario and Check the Rhime, are some of rap's most recognizable singles, and still continue to influence the newest generation of rappers. Busta Rhymes' line "ra-ra, like a dungeon dragon"? Nicki Minaj made it a hook in 2010. But it's the rest of the songs on here, the sheer quality of every beat and bar on this album, that's truly something to behold. Starting with the first track, Excursions, where Q-Tip eloquently ties together the growth of hip-hop to the growth of all popular black art, this album brings a full jazz-funk style of production that might sound like it's old hat, but for the time was a true standalone musical experiment. This is hip-hop's first full-length Jazz Rap experience, and it's a sound that really hasn't been topped since, excluding Kendrick's To Pimp a Butterfly (which takes the jazz and truly shoves it down your throat, which I appreciate). From there on out we have tracks like Skypager, a tremendous ode to the then-daily pager usage rampant among those looking to showcase a modicum of wealth and importance, especially in black communities. We have songs like Rap Promoter and Show Business, songs that vividly describe the predatory natures at play in what was, at least in '91, the Wild West, with white CEOs and men in suits looking to do anything they can to cash in on what was essentially a cultural movement gone mainstream. Then we have songs like What?, another Q-Tip masterclass in wordplay and social commentary, and a track that rewards repeat listens. This is so, so good. I would hope those who aren't generally into rap music give this a try and truly enjoy it for what it is. This is such a great example of what rap albums can do well. Thematically, musically, vocally, this album touches on so many important cultural and political struggles of the time, while also sounding like a true love-letter to all black art which preceded it, and while STILL SOUNDING THIS FRESH. Wonderful album.

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Tue Mar 16 2021
5

Amazing. Just fuck me up with this over and over and over.

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Mon Feb 08 2021
5

One of the greatest, RIP Phife Dawg

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Sun Apr 03 2022
5

Reaching backward with that double bass, Low End Theory is both a perfect 90's rap album and a bridge to an older peer music. Never frantic, Tribe is able to keep their pace up: The number of strong tracks on the second half is notable in itself.

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Sat Apr 01 2023
5

ATCQ created a style like no other. Choosing jazz samples in a lot of their work brought a fresh groove and laid back swagger to their music, quite different from anyone else at the time. Q Tip and Phife Dawg bring some of that verse swapping from old school hip hop whilst pushing into subjects, rapping about damn near anything. The two are so great together and it is a sad loss to music we have lost Phife so soon. The Low End Theory is one of a few hip hop albums that could convert the hip hop non believer. Its sound is so good, its rhymes are so quotable, its mood is fun, its rappers charismatic. A fine, fine record. Bump this on a summer day.

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Sat Feb 20 2021
4

If Arrested Development were a Hip-Hop artifact to be seen as a relic of how the genre used to sound, A Tribe Called Quest is a Hip-Hop database that you still hear referenced to this day. I've heard so many artist bite not only the flows but the literal lyrics from Tribe songs, I don't know how many times. All paying respect to their originators of course. This album is peak 90s Hip-Hop and I couldn't have been more pleased with a return listening. Only thing I will dock for is that the vibe is pretty samey throughout.

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Wed Jun 21 2023
4

Very good, I enjoyed the atmostphere it set and some good music on there

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Mon Jun 14 2021
3

On ne peut qu'être reconnaissant envers A Tribe Called Quest d'avoir composé la bande-son du jeu Monstres et Compagnie sur Game Boy Color (cf morceau What?). Dans celui-ci, Bob Razowski avait la possibilité d'effectuer deux sauts consécutifs en appuyant sur la touche A, tandis que Jacques Sullivan ne pouvait en effectuer qu'un seul.

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Fri Dec 15 2023
3

No. 67/1001 Excursions 3/5 Buggin' Out 3/5 Rap Promoter 3/5 Butter 3/5 Verses From The Abstract 4/5 Show Business 3/5 Vibes And Stuff 3/5 Infamous Date Rape 3/5 Check The Rhime 3/5 Everything Is Fair 3/5 Jazz 3/5 Skypager 2/5 What? 3/5 Scenario 3/5 Average: 3,0 This has all the ingredients for me to love it. Old scholl hip-hip, universally loved by critics and fans alike. But I just couldn't get that much into it. I felt musically it was lacking.

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Thu Oct 14 2021
1

Not my thing. Why is rapping considered singing?! #oldwoman

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Tue Aug 30 2022
1

As music, rap has never moved me. Adding a jazz bass line doesn’t make it much more palatable for me. The social commentary is sometimes quite powerful, some of the pieces are humorous. But it’s more speech performance to my ears than music. Sorry…

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Sat Apr 24 2021
5

Classic cerebral rap. Best track: Scenario

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Wed Oct 28 2020
5

All time classic from the legendary Tribe.

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Thu Nov 05 2020
5

one of the best hiphop/jazz rap records of all time.

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Tue Dec 15 2020
5

Classic 90s hip-hop, top 10 hip-hop album of all time

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Fri Apr 16 2021
5

I don’t know why I’ve never listened to this before. Awesome stuff

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Thu Jan 14 2021
5

So much flow and creative. Midnight Marauders is also cool.

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Tue Jan 19 2021
5

Fitting that I got this album on MLK day. Definitely one I'd listen to again.

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Tue Apr 06 2021
5

A band I really need to listen to more. Hooks you within seconds.

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Mon Jan 18 2021
5

A tribe called quest is awesome. Early '90s backpack rap always makes me nod my head.

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Tue Mar 16 2021
5

Probably one of my top rap albums of all time, there are so many great songs on this. The vibe on this album is essentially the best overall.

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Sun Apr 18 2021
5

Just a powerhouse album, beats too good and rhymes masterful

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Mon Mar 08 2021
5

One of the best rap albums of all time.

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Wed Jan 13 2021
5

Despite being the least favourite of the Native Tongues, still a classic in rotation.

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Tue Jan 19 2021
5

This was epic!! I LOVED it!! Great great hip hop album!! Will most definitely listen to this again and again!!

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Wed Mar 10 2021
5

Rhythm and jazz and hip-hop with such distinct world-view and atmosphere--really, really, really good.

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Tue Feb 16 2021
5

All day Phife and Tip. 5 foot Cypher and the Abstract. Love love love the Young Zulu Nation.

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Mon Mar 08 2021
5

One of my favorite rap albums ever, and my favorite by ATCQ. About as close to a perfect rap album as you can get. I love ATCQ.

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Tue Apr 27 2021
5

Very nice finding! I loved it!

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Thu Jan 21 2021
5

Listened to it 10 times loved it

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Wed Mar 31 2021
5

Very good jazz hip funk shit

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Sat Jan 23 2021
5

What a surprise! I loved it!

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Sun Feb 28 2021
5

Excellent hip hop, fun rhyme schemes and superb flow

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Tue Feb 09 2021
5

This is great. Considered a 4 star as I didn't think there were any standout tracks but that's only because they are all great

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Tue Apr 06 2021
5

Tribe called quest is legend.

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Tue Feb 09 2021
5

Best tracks: Check The Rhime, Buggin’ Out, Verses From The Abstract, What?

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Sat Jun 12 2021
5

This is a group I’ve always wanted to get into so I was excited to dive into this one today. This album is so awesome from beginning to end! Love the combination of jazz and hip-hop with intelligent lyrics. Wish I’d discovered this sooner.

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Thu Jun 03 2021
5

This album just blew me away. The production is phenomenal and is the perfect complement to the incredible, complex rapping. I think this is probably the best thing I've heard while doing this so far.

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Mon May 17 2021
5

Smooth flow. Game changing beats. Very relaxed and an incredible play off each others' strengths. All 3 voices flow so smoothly. As they say: "We got the vibe"

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Fri May 07 2021
5

Old school 90s rap viiiiiiibes! Wholesome <3

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Mon Jun 28 2021
5

One of the best rap albums of all time, and one of the best albums regardless of genre. Just so good.

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Sat May 15 2021
5

old school hip hop honestly all bangers

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Thu Jun 24 2021
5

Awesome 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

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Sat Jul 31 2021
5

I listened to it five times in two days. What a revelation! Undeniably booty-shaking.

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Fri Aug 13 2021
5

“Bust a nut inside your eye to show you where I come from” …cmon now

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Tue Aug 17 2021
5

I've heard this before but one of the easiest 5s on the list. Such a good and important rap album

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Sat Aug 21 2021
5

The jazz influence on this album really amazed me the first time I heard it. Some excellent lyrics as well, and I really love the delivery. Unrelated to the music, but I also love the album cover.

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Mon Sep 06 2021
5

Chance el mejor disco de rap de la historia.

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Fri Sep 10 2021
5

Flat-out classic album. Six stars.

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Wed Sep 22 2021
5

Class, know this one well. Already had an older Tribe album. This is sick though, a classic. Not even started listening and know it's gonna be a 5. Yeh, 5, easy.

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Fri Sep 24 2021
5

Probably one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time.

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Tue Oct 12 2021
5

A classic. A legend. I'm not cool enough for this album.

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Tue Nov 09 2021
5

8th November 2021 Listened on the living room speaker while working, chilled one. Love it, as ever, 80s/90s rap is the best.

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Tue Nov 09 2021
5

An absolute classic. I listened to this album years ago, but I don't know if I ever heard it front to back. I don't know what I was thinking, because every track is fire.

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Mon Nov 15 2021
5

Brilliance. 90s rap at it's purest! You can find the abstract listenin to hip hop. 5 stars listen to this one a lot!

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Wed Nov 17 2021
5

Perfect rap album. Phife’s voice is incredible. Rhymes come at you fast. Have to work hard to catch all their lines. Super analog sound. When I think hip hop/rap, this is the sound I think of in my head.

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Wed Nov 17 2021
5

This album renewed my faith in rap music and made me start exploring true artists instead of pop rap.

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Tue Nov 30 2021
5

Always fun to get an album on here that you're familiar with. I love this album and their sound/style. Favourite songs: Excursions, Verses from the Abstract, Show Business, Check the Rhime

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Mon Dec 06 2021
5

Smoothest beats of all time. A timeless classic.

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Mon Jan 03 2022
5

Maybe the best album by a band with mostly great albums

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