On the 20th anniversary of A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, the legendary producer/engineer reminisces about recording the landmark Hip-Hop album.
What’s so special about The Low End Theory?
“The Low End Theory was an interesting record; in a way, it was The Sgt. Pepper’s of hip-hop. It’s a record that changed the way that people thought about putting music together. I’m not a big hip-hop historian; I just know the stuff that I worked on. Until that point, when people used samples on records, it was pretty much one loop that played throughout. With The Low End Theory, and People’s Instinctive Travels, to a lesser extent, Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed were at the leading edge of a new wave where people started making elaborate musical constructions out of samples from different places that would not, and in many ways, could not, have been played by regular players.
Talk a bit about “Scenario.” That’s a hugely influential track and might be the greatest “posse cut” of all time.
“‘Scenario” was huge for A Tribe Called Quest, and as far as I know, a real breakout track for Busta Rhymes, formerly of Leaders of the New School. There was electricity in the air that night. What you hear is really what went down in the studio: all the MCs feeding off each other, one after another. To get the best, sonically, but also to keep the flow going, I set up five different mics in the booth. Each MC would come in, and I’d ask, “Say the same thing on each one.” They’d go through the mics; I’d say, “number 4,” and we’d cut the vocal.
“Everyone did their rhyme and then Busta came in with one of the great recorded MC performances of all time: “Oh my God! Oh my God!” I remember being blown away by the pure, visceral energy, and Busta’s feature raised the bar considerably that night.
Read “Bob Power: Pro/File” at Electronic Musician