Yesterday, we brought you the first installment of our two-part VH1 Album-Versaries: The Low End Theory at 20, reflecting on A Tribe Called Quest’s ground-breaking second album, The Low End Theory. After assembling all four group-members in a joint-interview for the first time in almost fourteen years, we were able to share exclusive stories from their recording sessions at Battery Studios and, with help from hip hop expert Sway, cultural critic extraordinaire Nelson George, and international journalist Boss Lady, lauded the album’s effortless ability to resonate with the masses. In today’s Part II, we delve further into The Low End Theory’s sonic framework, the roles of MC Phife Dawg and Q-Tip, and come full circle to set the group’s highly-speculated relationship issues straight.
THE HIP HOP BEATLES
“Coming off the first album, the question was ‘well, what does HE do?’” recalls Phife, hyper-aware of what listeners thought of his seemingly-small contribution on the group’s debut project. Often referred to as his lyrical coming out party, The Low End Theory truly did give Phife the platform to hunker down and fully transition from (what Jarobi would describe as) being “young and crazy” to a focused, rhyme-writing, studio-attending MC. His high-pitched, witty lyrics complimented Q-Tip’s smooth vocal delivery, and Phife wound up on 9 of the album’s 14 tracks, a drastic and well-deserved upgrade from the four he appeared on with People’s Instinctive Travels’.
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There’s more! Follow along to read the conclusion of VH1 Album-Versaries: The Low End Theory at 20.
A Tribe Called Quest dropped their second full-length album, The Low End Theory, in late September of 1991. Widely recognized as a ground-breaking work today because of the manner in which it experimentally weaved layers of sampled jazz elements into its sound-bed, the album earned a spot in Time’s All-Time 100 Albums List, was named the #154 album of all-time by Rolling Stone and was celebrated at 2007’s VH1 Hip Hop Honors. The group recalls that early chapter of their career vividly, and last week, for A Tribe Called Quest’s first joint-interview since 1998, all four members of the group spoke exclusively to VH1 to mark the 20th anniversary of The Low End Theory’s release.
For Questers, music fans and students of hip hop culture, Beats, Rhymes and Life is a must-see, but the effect it had on the lives of everyone involved in the project and the press frenzy that lingers might still be a bit misleading to the outside world. In order to help contextualize this landmark album’s impact, we spoke with MTV’s in-house hip hop expert Sway, cultural critic extraordinaire Nelson George, and international journalist Boss Lady about the resonance that this LP had then, and also now, 20 years later. And while A Tribe Called Quest appears to still be somewhat re-acquainting themselves with each other after dissolving in 1998 and wrestling with the last few years’ shell-shocking chain of events, it was clear from the time we spent with them that Kamaal “Q-Tip” Ibn John Fareed, Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor, Ali Shaheed Muhammed and, yes, even Jarobi White are still very much an unbreakable Tribe of brothers.
What happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, but when tempers roar and fists fly, that’s not always the case! Early this morning, a very heated Ray J called in to The Breakfast Club on New York’s Power 105 to vent on a scuffle that occurred last night backstage before a Fabolous concert at Sin City’s Palms Hotel. Because Ray J was emotional and yelling endless expletives about the still-warm incident during his phone call, drawing detailed conclusions on what actually occurred is still bit difficult.
What we can gather, however, is that the For The Love of Ray J and A Family Business star was apparently upset by a series of tweets that poked fun at him performing in Floyd Mayweather’s living room on HBO’s 24/7, sent by constantly-joking Twitter personality and rapper Fabolous on Saturday night. During his uncensored Power 105 interview, Ray J claimed to have confronted the Brooklyn rapper backstage with a punch to the face, and in addition to making other outlandish threats, vowed to repeat the violence if he or his cohorts come across Fab again in the future.
When I first heard Frank Ocean’s “Thinking About You,” I imagined a clichéd couple-quarrelling-and-making-up video, not a tipi in a pasture with Native Americans burning sage inside. But hey, I guess I don’t have a strong enough imagination. Posted in the wee hours of the morning via their Tumblr, High5Collective liberated a Frank-approved visual for the falsetto-laden ballad, and it brings the song to a whole new level. Be clear, folks: this is nothing like Beyoncé’s “Best Thing I Never Had” CMT-esque clip.
There’s no use in boring you with a scene-by-scene account of the well-shot video, because I wouldn’t do the magical asteroid, spiritual ceremony, dream-catchers, or Frank’s hospital scrubs justice, and frankly, you should watch it for yourself to interpret. Just know that the imagery is full of esoteric symbolism, and it just might help you redefine the word “forever;” it’s romantic and heartwarming to think that love can last a lifetime, but if that love can transcend to future lifetimes, well, SWOON. Can we get a full album, already?
In attempt to have it see the (green)light of day on Comedy Central’s airwaves, Windy City hip hop stars Kanye West and Rhymefest put their wildly creative minds together to craft a pilot for a hip-hop puppet show. Yes, puppets. Created and co-executive produced with Crank Yankers’Daniel Kellison and South Park writer Jon Kimmel, the adult show, titled Alligator Boots, intended to feature hilarious puppet characters, all of which were caringly stitched together to interact with celebrity guests acting as weekly hosts. In the newly released behind-the-scenes footage that was shot an indeterminate time ago, we hear from the director, puppetmakers and puppeteers, background designers, writers, and the masterminds themselves, and get a glimpse of a crass project that was canceled before we all got the chance to giggle our asses off.
“I get nervous about hitting Kanye West in the face over and over with a hard, plastic rattle,” said puppeteer Alice Dinnean when Rhymefest asked her and her colleagues what makes them shiver in their boots on set. Borrowing the audience component from Saturday Night Live, Alligator Boots set out with the lofty goal to feature puppet sketches, faux commericials, backstage “behind-the-scenes” puppet-interaction skits, and much, much more. In the clip above, written to poke fun at Kanye’s “diva” reputation, you see Storm Trooper ‘Ye get ditched by Princess Leia (Kim Kardashian) for a suave puppet named Beary White; just one of “about twenty-nine” puppet thespians. Our favorite part is probably when Rhymefest’s puppet alter-ego Pork Troy appears as a famous rapper character, spitting bars on a little ditty called “Baby In The Club,” and presents visuals for what seems like a music video where a 20-year-old woman brings her 1-year-old infant out to shake a tail feather in a very adult atmosphere. Crass, innapropriate jokes are abundant in the writing, and it’s clear that the set was a breeding ground for hip-hop comedy greatness. R.I.P., Alligator Boots!
Last week, hip-hop journalist and cultural critic Dream Hamptontweeted, “I hate that Beyonce is being used as a poster child for being a married mother. Her single mother sister is her role model.” Whether or not you agree the first half of her statement, the latter is absolutely true, and considering Hampton is also the co-author of Jay-Z’sNew York Times Best-Selling book Decoded, her opinion might possess more validity than most on this subject.
It goes without saying that, married or not, we’re thrilled about the Bey-Z bun in the oven, and last week, VH1 News’ Janell Snowden caught up with Beyoncé’s singing and DJing kid sister Solange at Fashion’s Night Out in NYC to chat about motherhood. Solange’s precious son Julez will be turning 7-years-old next month, and considering she had him at age 17, she had some qualified, heartfelt advice for her mom-to-be, superstar sister.
Every now and again, a story surfaces that we really, really, really don’t want to believe is true. Yesterday’s unsubstantiated rumor that Swizz Beatz is cheating on Alicia Keys is certainly one of them, and after reading the text from a series of alleged Blackberry Messenger conversations between the Grammy-winning producer and a Houston singer/songwriter who goes by Christina Elizabeth, we’re crossing our fingers that this news is only unconfirmed balderdash.
Swizz and Alicia have always maintained that their own romance was not birthed from an affair, but because it began so soon after he was separated from then-wife Mashonda Tifrere, some may be quick to speculate that it was only a matter of time until an infidelity of this nature would occur. Up until this point, however, the happily married couple have only responded through tweets: Alicia seemingly calling the rumors “laughable” and Swizz saying they’re “BS” and making a plea to have people put their energy into more “positive things.” Just this past weekend, the couple were seen hand-in-hand at Fashion Week events, and Alicia is featured on “International Party,” the second single off of Swizz’s new album Haute Living, which drops next week.
After leaping from #19 to #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart last week, Adele’s “Someone Like You” might be gearing up to follow in the footsteps of her first single, “Rolling In The Deep.” And while we wait for the UK songbird to deliver what’s rumored to be a stunning music video for 21’s second single, we can sit back and watch as covers for the song start piling up. Whereas “Rolling in the Deep” got love from the likes of John Legend, Mike Posner, Gwyneth Paltrow (via Glee), and even a military band, it appears the only famous person to touch “Someone Like You” is the “Look At Me Now”-covering YouTube sensation Karmin, until now!
Bobbi Kristina Brown, the 17-year-old daughter of Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston took to the interwebs on Saturday to record her own version of Adele’s emotional, longing-laced ballad. Singing a capella, the teenager showed that she comes from good, talented stock by not butchering the song—it’s virtually impossible to come close to meeting Adele’s vocals—but Bobbi Kristina demonstrated both solid breath control and a sweet smile from what appears to be her somewhat-messy bedroom. By no means is this version sonically mind-blowing, but it’s nice to know that, even amidst her mother’s rehab-related turmoil, young B.K. isn’t afraid to show that the good qualities of the apple don’t fall too incredibly far from the tree. That being said, we’re still somewhat partial to Adele’s Unplugged version of the song, and obviously look forward to seeing who’s next to hop on this one!
As the Red Hot Chili Peppers release their tenth studio album this week, we can’t help but daydream ruminate about how much of a sex symbol frontman Anthony Kiedis was—who could forget the sock?!—and still is. Time has been kind to Mr. Suck My Kiss, and he is definitely not alone in that regard; there’s an entire legion of men in music whose good looks and sex appeal have fermented in the manner of a perfectly-mature wine.
Whether you grew up with one of their faces taped to your Trapper Keeper or you’re old enough to be their mom, there’s a hunk on this list for you. From rock to hip hop, songwriters to bass players, we’ve got Arena Gods, men who are Good With Their Hands, Smooth Operators, International Flavors, and like the Chili Peppers’ singer, Spicy Sex Symbols. Keeping it simple, we’re celebrating the 45 to 70-year-old vintages by exhibiting their physical evolution through their respective careers. You’ll be taking in images from when they got their start, their “middle years,” and how they look in the present. Take a moment to step into the wine cellar and relish in each man’s beauty of the past and, at the end,toast to their continued maturing in the future by weighing in on who you think has aged best. Apologies in advance for the ladyboners!
While NYC residents are relieved to have been spared the worst of Hurricane Irene (we’re thinking of you, Vermont), I must admit to shallow disappointment in her pulling a robbery on my social life this weekend. Forced to stay indoors, I was able to spend some time with Lil Wayne’s recently-leaked Tha Carter IV while suffering through meteorologists and weather anchors overusing words like “hunker [down]” and “pounding [wind and rain],” wanting to throw a thesaurus at my television. After closing the MTV VMAs last night, the New Orleans native, who is unfortunately all too familiar with hurricanes, officially dropped his ninth solo album digitally before running off to host an after-party that coincided with Tha Carter IV’s release.
Because it’s dropping in such close proximity to Jay-Z and Kanye’sWatch The Throne, Tha Carter IV is a an easy target for direct comparisons. Wayne is a one-man show, and despite having a bushel of features (from the likes of Andre 3000, Nas, Bun B, and BobRick Ross), facing off against Jay and Kanye’s well-marketed collaboration LP certainly isn’t apples to apples, but the pot will inevitably be stirred! One of the songs on Tha Carter IV contains a verse directed at Jay-Z and talks about kidnapping newly pregnant Beyoncé, so speculations were high that some sort of altercation would occur at the VMAs last night. Likely retaliation for Hov’s “baby money” verse on “H.A.M.” back in January, Wayne’s verse on the C4 track, entitled “It’s Good” (also featuring Jadakiss and Drake), sounds like it’s just come to term; the passion in Wayne’s voice and use of verbs in the present tense suggest it was recorded many months ago, not recently. That, mixed with the fact that Jay didn’t respond publicly last night, might mean it’s water under the bridge. Read more…