Arachnophonia – MUS 235 Edition: A Tribe Called Quest “The Low End Theory”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about resources from the Parsons Music Library‘s collection.

This special edition of Arachnophonia features contributions from students in Dr. Joanna Love‘s MUS 235 class: “I Want My MTV: Music Video and the Transformation of the Music Industry.”

All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.
Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by MUS 235 student Ryan and features the 1991 album The Low End Theory by hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest. Thanks, Ryan!

A Tribe Called Quest

The Low End Theory

A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory

The cover of The Low End Theory (1991), the second album from A Tribe Called Quest

In this post, I will be analyzing The Low End Theory (Album, CD) by A Tribe Called Quest as an academic source. The Low End Theory was the second album released by ATCQ, through Jive Records and Zomba Recording company on September 24th, 1991, and is frequently listed as one of the greatest Hip Hop albums of all time by critics. Considering that Hip Hop was still relatively young at the time, the album was fairly commercially successful. It peaked at number 45 on the U.S. Billboard charts and was certified gold within four months and platinum three years later. Much more important than its commercial success and its critical acclaim however, was its influence on the future direction of Hip Hop. Because of ATCQ’s heavy use of jazz sampling and their playful and funny yet socially conscious lyricism, The Low End Theory is an essential source for researchers examining the relationship between Jazz and Hip Hop and the rise of the popular subgenre of Conscious Rap today, including the music of Kendrick Lamar and J Cole.

A Tribe Called Quest was a self-proclaimed “Hip Hop Band” consisting of members Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

A Tribe Called Quest

An image from the inside of the booklet in The Low End Theory CD featuring the group members. Q-Tip is on the left, Ali Shaheed Muhammad is on the right, and Phife Dawg is front and center

The fourth member, Jarobi White, left the group after their first album, so he was not included on this album, but returned to contribute to the groups final album, We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, after Phife Dawg passed away in 2016. On The Low End Theory, Ali Shaheed Muhammad was a DJ/producer, Phife Dawg was an MC, and Q-Tip was both a producer and MC. Their sophomore album, which consists of 14 tracks and is 48 minutes in length, gets its name from both the bass, or low-end, focused instrumentals and is also a clever reference to their lowered status as black men in America. Alongside the album, ATCQ also released a music video for the track “Scenario” and another combined video, which I will be analyzing in my final research paper for this class, for “Jazz (We’ve Got)” and “Buggin’ Out.”

As the title of track 11, which is part 1 of the previous video, suggests, the music on The Low End Theory is heavily inspired by Jazz and wears that influence on its sleeve. In the first verse of “Excursions”, the opening song of the album, Q-Tip references this influence by comparing Hip Hop to Bebop Jazz in the lines, “You could find the Abstract listenin’ to hip-hop/My pops used to say, it reminded him of Bebop/I said, Well, Daddy, don’t you know that things go in cycles?/Way that Bobby Brown is just amping like Michael”. The most obvious musical influence is in the samples found within the instrumentals. Though not all of the samples on the album are credited, some of the more prominent ones were cleared and are listed at the end of the CD booklet and most originate from jazz or funk records. “Vibes and Stuff” uses a sample from jazz guitarist Grant Green and “Check the Rhime” uses a horn sample from Average White Band’s song “Love Your Life”. Though it isn’t credited on the album, a bit of digging on shows that the song “Jazz (We’ve Got)” uses a sample from the piece “Green Dolphin Street” by Jazz/Blues Pianist Jimmy McGriff. ATCQ even goes beyond sampling and recruits famous Jazz Double Bassist, Ron Carter, to play the bass line on the Q-Tip solo track, “Verses from the Abstract”.

Though The Low End Theory was far from the first Hip Hop album to make use of jazz sampling, ATCQ was able to fuse jazz and funk instrumentation with hard hitting but laid back drum loops in a unique way that resonated with their audience. ATCQ’s previous album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, also used many jazz samples but did not receive the same kind of acclaim. At that point, the group was still perfecting their sound. The lyricism was similar, but the instrumentals were not quite as sparse and focused on the low-end, an attribute of The Low End Theory and its successor, Midnight Marauders, that made them stand out.

The instrumental style of The Low End Theory was not just critically acclaimed, but turned out to be a major influence on the future of Hip Hop production. Even today, its influence can clearly be heard in the music of some of the most popular artists in modern Hip Hop. The closing songs on both J Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly employ soft jazz instrumentation over prominent bass lines and hard-hitting but laid-back drums and sound like they could have easily fit into A Tribe Called Quest album. The two artists even collaborated on an homage to ATCQ called “Forbidden Fruit” in 2013, in which the two used the same sample that ATCQ used for “Electric Relaxation”. The vocal style of ATCQ has also proven to be very influential. To use another J. Cole example, his song “Wet Dreamz” has many similarities to the Phife Dawg focused song, “Butter”, from The Low End Theory. Both songs deal with various girl problems the two have gone through. They are clearly fairly serious and relatable topics, however both rappers tell the stories using clever and sometimes funny rhymes. Instead of focusing on catchy lyrics like groups like Run D.M.C, or the more serious tones of contemporaries like N.W.A or Public Enemy, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg found a conscious yet light and palatable rap style that many later rappers wanted to emulate.

The Low End Theory is essential to my research for this course since I am using the video “Jazz (We’ve Got) Buggin’ Out” in order to examine the relationship between Jazz and Hip Hop. That video, and by extension The Low End Theory, is not the only place to start when searching for the critical point connecting the genres, but it is certainly one of the most significant. In the time since The Low End Theory was released, Jazz and Hip Hop have become increasingly intertwined, to the point that they have become indistinguishable from one another at times. Albums like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly and Madlib’s Shades of Blue, as well as many of The Roots’ projects explore the explore the shared musical and cultural lineage of the genres and all of those artists would cite A Tribe Called Quest and The Low End Theory as one of their influences.

New CDs added – October 2018

New CDs for October 2018

Chamber Music & Concertos

American Wild Ensemble – Music In The American Wild
Lisa Bielawa – In Medias Res
Lisa Bielawa – The Lay of the Love

Lisa Bielawa - The Lay of the Love

Glenn Kotche – Adventureland
David Lang – Peirced
David Lang – Writing On Water

David Lang - Pierced

Brad Mehldau – After Bach
Salvadore Spina – Robert Lombardo + M. William Karlins – Piano Works, 1961-1993


Brad Mehldau Trio – Seymour Reads The Constitution!
Charles Lloyd & the Marvels + Lucinda Williams – Vanished Gardens

Brad Mehldau Trio - Seymour Reads the Constitution!

Opera, Art Songs, Vocal Music

Kati Agocs – The Debrecen Passion
Lisa Bielawa – Chance Encounter

Kati Agocs - The Debrecen Passion

Gavin Bryars – The Fifth Century
Hildegurls – Electric Ordo Virtutum
David Lang – The National Anthems

Hildegurls - Electric Ordo Virtutum


Joe Iconis – Be More Chill
Kevin Murphy – Heathers The Musical

Heathers the Musical

Benj Pasek – Dear Evan Hansen
Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein – Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel

Dear Evan Hansen

Popular Music

Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen
Ben Folds Five – The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner

Ben Folds Five - Reinhold Messner

Hills and Home – High Fidelity
Schlong – Punk Side Story

Hills and Home - High Fidelity

Shovels & Rope – Busted Jukebox Volume 1
Shovels & Rope – Busted Jukebox Volume 2
Shovels & Rope – Little Seeds

Shovels & Rope - Little Seeds

New CDs added – September 2018

New CDs for September 2018

Concertos and Chamber Music

Jane Antonia Cornish – Constellations
Jane Antonia Cornish – Continuum

Jane Antonia Cornish - Continuum


John Coltrane – Both Directions At Once : The Lost Album
Mary Halvorson – The Maid with the Flaxen Hair
Takaaki – New Kid In Town

John Coltrane - Both Directions At Once


David Hein – Come From Away
Jeanine Tesori – Caroline, Or Change

Caroline or Change

Various Artists – Spongebob Squarepants, The New Musical
David Yazbeck – The Band’s Visit: Original Broadway Cast Recording

Spongebob Broadway

New CDs added – Summer 2018

New CDs for Summer 2018

Concertos & Chamber Music

Lou Harrison – Works for Percussion, Violin, and Piano
Steve Reich + SO Percussion – Drumming Live
Various Artists – Kaleidoscopic

Lou Harrison - Works

Piano Music

William Appling – Scott Joplin: The complete rags, waltzes and marches
Beth Levin – Inward Voice

William Appling - Scott Joplin


Hector Barez – El Laberinto del Coco
Masayoshi Fujita – Book of Life

Masayoshi Fujita - Book of Life

Danny Green Trio plus Strings – One Day It Will
Maria Schneider Orchestra – The Thompson Fields

Maria Schneider - The Thompson Fields

Woody Shaw – Tokyo ’81

Woody Shaw - Tokyo '81

Cantatas & Choral Music

Eighth Blackbird – Olagon : A Cantata in doublespeak
Tigran Mansurian – Requiem

Eighth Blackbird - Olagon


Sara Bareilles – Waitress: Original Broadway Cast Recording

Waitress - Original Broadway Cast

Stephen Flaherty – Once On This Island: The Musical: New Broadway Cast Recording

Once On This Island - New Broadway Cast

Electronic Music

Jaan Raats – Marginalia
Various Artists – Electronic Chamber Music

Jaan Raats - Marginalia

Popular Music

Art of Time Ensemble with Steven Page – A Singer Must Die

Art of Time Ensemble - A Singer Must Die

Kendrick Lamar – Damn

Kendrick Lamar - Damn

New CDs added in March!

New CDs for March 2018

Concertos, Chamber and Orchestral Music

Francois Devienne – Flute Concertos Nos. 9-12
Jennifer Higdon – All Things Majestic / Viola Concerto / Oboe Concerto
Jennifer Higdon – Piano Trio / Voices / Impressions

Higdon - All Things Majestic

Sheku Kanneh-Mason – Inspiration

Sheku Kanneh-Mason - Inspiration

Jeffrey LaDeur – Debussy & Rameau: The Unbroken Line
Alon Sariel – Telemandolin

Alon Sariel - Telemandolin

Arnold Schoenberg – String Quartets 2 & 4 / Gringolts Quartet
Kai Schumacher – Beauty in Simplicity

Kai Schumacher - Beauty in Simplicity


Behn Gillece – Walk of Fire
Aaron Goldberg – The Now

Justin Kauflin – Dedication
Jimmy McGriff – The Best of the Sue Years, 1962-1965

Jimmy McGriff

Thelonious Monk – Solo Monk
Mostly Other People Do The Killing – Red Hot
Oneness of Juju – Space Jungle Luv

Oneness of JuJu - Space Jungle Luv

Gregory Porter – Nat “King” Cole & Me
Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet – Intents and Purposes

Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet

Opera, Opera Excerpts and Art Songs

Daron Hagen – After Words : 21st-Century Song Cycles

Daron Hagen 21st Century Song Cycles

Choral Music

Benjamin Britten – A Ceremony of Carols / Friday Afternoons / Three Two-Part Songs
Luminos – In Lucem
John Turner – Christmas Card Carols

Luminos - In Lucem

Folk and World Music

The James Connolly Songs of Freedom Band – Songs of Freedom
Various Artists – Andina, the Sound of the Peruvian Andes : Huyano, Carnaval & Cumbia, 1968 to 1978


Popular Music

Various Artists – Caribbean in America, 1915-1962
Steven Wright-Mark – My Plastic World …

Caribbean in America

New CDs added in December!

New CDs for December 2017

Concertos and Chamber Music

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach – Tangere
Danish String Quartet – Thomas Ades, Per Nørgard, Hans Abrahamsen
Danish String Quartet – Last Leaf

Danish String Quartet - Woodworks

Danish String Quartet – Wood Works
Anthony de Mare – Liaisons : Re-imagining Sondheim from the Piano
Francois Devienne – Flute Concertos Nos. 1-4
Francois Devienne – Flute Conteros Nos. 5-8

 D.C. Hall's New Concert & Quadrille Band

D.C. Hall’s New Concert & Quadrille Band – Grand Concert!: Vocal and Instrumental Music Heard in 19th Century America
Beth Levin – Bright Cirle / Schubert, Brahms, Del Tredici
Beth Levin – Personae / Chopin, Eliasson, Schumann

Beth Levin - Personae


Rez Abbasi – Unfiltered Universe
Miles Davis & Bill Evans – Complete Studio & Live Masters
Kyle Eastwood – In Transit

Miles Davis and Bill Evans

Opera, Opera Excerpts and Art Songs

Pretty Yende – Dreams

Pretty Yende - Dreams

Sacred Vocal Music

St. Hildegard Von Bingen – Hildegard Von Bingen: The Complete Edition – Sequentia

Hildegard Complete

Gospel Music

Various Artists – Feel Good! : 40 Years of Life Changing Music

Feel Good

Pop, Blues, Rap and Rock Music

Talib Kweli- Radio Silence
Mavis Staples – If All I Was Was Black

Talib Kweli - Radio Silence

World Music

Abelardo Barroso – Cha Cha Cha – Albelardo Barroso with Orquestra Sensacion
Buena Vista Social Club – Lost and Found
Various Artists – Anthology of Classic Cuban Music

Anthology of Classic Cuban Music

Band Music

United States Marine Band – Arioso

Mavis Staples - If all I was was black

New CDs added in October!

New CDs for October 2017

Orchestral Music

Dimitri Shostakovich – Under Stalin’s Shadow : Symphonies Nos. 5, 8, 9
Dimitri Shostakovich – Under Stalin’s Shadow : Symphonie No. 10

Shostakovich - Under Stalin's Shadow

Concertos and Chamber Music

J.S. Bach – The Cello Suites According to Anna Magdalena
J.S. Bach – Solo Works for Marimba — Kuniko
Ferio Saxophone Quartet – Flux : Original Works for Saxophone Quartet
Joseph Haydn – Flute Sonatas

Haydn - Flute Sonatas

Eunmi Ko – She Rose, and Let Me In
Isang Yun – Chamber Music
Isang Yun – Chamber Music : World Premier Recordings

Isang Yun - Chamber Music

Electronic Music

Various artists – Space, Energy & Light: Experimental Electronic and Acoustic Soundscapes 1961-88

Space Energy & Light


Bill Evans – Another Time : The Hilversum Concert
Gary Smulyan Quartet – Royalty at Le Duc: Live at Le Duc des Lombards
Harry Allen’s All Star New York Saxophone Band – The Candy Men
Fred Hersch – Open Book
Junior Mance – The Complete Albums Collection, 1959-1962

Junior Mance Collection

Jeremy Rose – Within & Without
San Francisco String Trio – May I Introduce To You
Triocity – I Believe In You
Chris Washburne – Rags and Roots

San Francisco String Trio Cover

Opera, Opera Excerpts and Art Songs

Jamie Barton – All Who Wander
George Frideric Handel – Rinaldo

Dimitri Hvorostovsky – Dimitri Hvorostovsky sings of war, peace, love and sorrow
Louis Karchin – Romulus

Louis Karchin - To The Sun and Stars

Louis Karchin – To The Sun And Stars
Franz Schubert – Schubert Songs — Thomas Meglioranza & Reiko Uchida
Franz Schubert – Winterreise — Thomas Meglioranza & Reiko Uchida
Pretty Yende – A Journey

Pretty Yende - A Journey

Choral Music

Henricus Isaac – Nell tempo di Lorenzo de’Medici & Maximilian I, 1450-1519
ORA – Many Are The Wonders: Renaissance Gems and Their Reflections

Henricus Isaac

World Music

Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet – Ladilikan
Various Artists – Sweet As Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa

Sweet As Broken Dates


Brenda Russell – The Color Purple : New Broadway Cast Recording

The Color Purple

Ameriana, Bluegrass, and Country Music

Arthur Alexander – Arthur Alexander
Rhiannon Giddens – Factory Girl

Rhiannon Giddens - Freedom Highway

Rhiannon Giddens – Freedom Highway
John Reischman and the Jaybirds – On That Other Green Shore
The Sweetback Sisters – King of Killing Time

John Reischman - On That Other Green Shore

Pop and Rock Music

Raspberries – Pop Art Live

Raspberries - Pop Art Live

Arachnophonia: Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band – “Sing Sang Sung”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student library worker AJ (class of 2018). Thanks, AJ!

Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band

“Sing Sang Sung”
Swingin’ For The Fences

Gordon Goodwin -  Swingin for the Fences

One of my favorite jazz groups is Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band.

Goodwin Big Phat Band live

In high school, my director loved to challenge us, and I still remember one of the hardest songs I’ve ever had to play was “Sing Sang Sung” by the Phat Band off of their album Swinging for the Fences. It’s a newer take on “Sing Sing Sing“, but I believe it to be infinitely harder and more intricate. The piece makes every player have to really know their stuff; there is hardly any unison to hide behind. In high school, we had to learn the second half of the piece by heart, because when the breakdown happens, we walked out into the crowd, off the stage, and played in the audience. Everyone loved it. How could they not? The upbeat tempo of a strikingly familiar melody moves everyone.

Goodwin Big Phat Band

New CDs added in September!

New CDs for September 2017

Orchestral Music

George Crumb – George Crumb
William Schuman – Symphonies and Selected Orchestral Works
Roger Sessions – Symphonies 6, 7 & 9
Ralph Vaughan Williams – Complete Symphonies
Isang Yun – Complete Symphonies; My Land, My People; Exemplum

Isang Yun - Complete Symphonies

Concertos and Chamber Music

Alberto Ginastera – The Three Piano Concertos (Nissman Plays Ginastera)
Bohuslav Martinu – Chamber Music with Flute
Jean-Pierre Rampal – Les triomphes de Jean-Pierre Rampal
Ransom Wilson – Flute Music By French Composers

Les Triomphes de Jean-Pierre Rampal


Tri-Ocity – The Art of the Jazz Organ Trio

Tri-Ocity - Art of Jazz Organ Trio

Film Music

Dimitri Shostakovich – Hamlet: Music for the Film, op. 116/116a

Shostakovich - Hamlet

New CDs added in July!

New CDs for July 2017

Orchestral Music

Ernest Bloch – America (An Epic Rhapsody)
Margaret Brouwer – Orchestral and Percussion Music

Bloch - America

Diana Cotoman – Symphonie No. 1
Diana Cotoman – Symphonie No. 2
Diana Cotoman – Tableaux & Poemes
Frederick Delius – Appalachia / The Song of the High Hills
Henri Dutilleux – Metaboles / The Shadows of Time
Henri Dutilleux – Symphony No. 2

Delius - Appalachia

G.F. Handel – Water Music / Music for the Royal Fireworks
Hans Werner Henze – Drei sinfonische eduden / Quattro poemi / Nachstucke und arien / La selva incantata
Hans Wener Henze – Ode to the West Wind / Five Neapolitan Songs / Three Dithyrambs
Vincent D’Indy – Jour d’ete a la montagne, Op. 61 & Symphonie sur un chant montagnard “Chevenole”, Op. 25
King’s Consort – The Coronation of King George II
Olivier Messiaen – Turangali^la symphony
Christopher Rouse – Odna Zhizn / Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 / Prospero’s Rooms
Bright Sheng – The Phoenix

Bright Sheng - The Phoenix

Chamber Music and Concertos

Martha Argerich – Debut Recital: Chopin, Brahms, Liszt, Ravel, Prokofiev
Ludwig van Beethoven – Bearbeitungen Fur Blaser
Ludwig van Beethoven – Legacy: The Spirit of Beethoven – Gwendolyn Mok
Ludwig van Beethoven – Sonatas for Violin and Piano
Ebb & Flow Arts – Explorations

Martha Argerich

Soovin Kim; Jeremy Denk; Jupiter String Quartet – Concert in D Major; Chausson / Sonata No. 1 in A Major; Faure
Steven Mackey – Banana Dump Truck: Music of Steven Mackey
Sphinx Virtuosi – Live in Concert
Richard Strauss – Violin Concerto / Sonata in Eb
Charles Wuorinen – Ashberyana / Fenton Songs
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich – Violin Concerto / Rituals

Banana Dump Truck

Popular Music

The Chainsmokers – Bouquet
Kaia Kater – Nine Pin
Josh Ritter – Sermon on the Rocks

Chainsmokers - Bouquet

Duncan Sheik – Legerdemain
Various artists – Tamla Motwon : Connoisseurs
Suzanne Vega – Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles

Tamla Motown

Band Music

Thomas Coates – Thomas Coates : The Father of Band Music in America

Thomas Coates

Cantatas, Choruses, Operas and Oratorios

J.S. Bach – St. Mark Passion
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy – Psalmen un Moetetten / Oratorium Christus Op. 97
Ludwig van Beethoven – Fidelio
Ludwig van Beethoven – Missa Solemnis
George Frideric Handel – Amor e gelosia : Operatic Arias
George Frideric Handel – Delirio : Italian Cantatas
George Frideric Handel – Rinaldo

Handel - Rinaldo

Witold Lutoslawski – Twenty Polish Christmas Carols
Musica Ficta – Danske julesalmer og sange
Ariel Ramirez – Missa Criolla / Navidad Nuestra
Paul Schoenfield – Concerto for Violin & Orchestra / Four Motets / The Merchant and the Pauper (excerpts)
John Tavener – Lament for Jerusalem
Kurt Weill – The Seven Deadly Sins

Musica Ficta


Seamus Blake & Chris Cheek with Reeds Ramble – Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off
Jane Ira Bloom – Early Americans
Avishai Cohen – Into The Silence
The Cookers – The Call of the Wild and Peaceful Heart

Cookers - Call of the Wild

Fred Hersch Trio – Alive at the Vanguard
Harold Lopez-Nussa – El Viaje
Joe Mulholland Trio – Runaway Train

Harold Lopez-Nussa El Viaje-1

Musicals & Film Music

City of Prague Philharmonic – Psycho : The Essential Alfred Hitchcock
Osvaldo Golijov – Youth Without Youth : Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Maury Yeston – Titanic : A New Musical

Psycho: The Essential Alfred Hitchcock

World / Folk Music

Sheila Chandra – Monsoon
Maarja Nuut – Une meeles = In the hold of a dream
Various Artists – Why The Mountains Are Black : Primeval Greek Village Music : 1907-1960
Various Artists – Women of Africa

Women of Africa