2. A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory (1991)
Label: Jive, RCA
What a difference an album can make! The maturation of Q-Tip and Phife between their enjoyable but patchy debut and The Low End Theory makes them the clear winners for the "Most Improved of All Time" trophy.
Where Phife Dawg previously played rudimentary sidekick to Tip on a handful of cuts, he now held his own tracks like "Check The Rime" with equal confidence, and even got his time to shine on for "delf" on "Butter." Q-Tip, meanwhile, really hit his stride both in terms of the beats he brought to the table and his own vocal styles, as the crew graduated from eccentric bohemians to certified B-Boys without skipping a beat. This wasn't "Jazz Rap," it was hip-hop that flipped stand-up bass and rare groove horns to perfection.
Tip later told MTV that, "It was listening to N.W.A's Straight Outta Compton that inspired us to make The Low End Theory, and years later I spoke to Dr. Dre and he told me that hearing The Low End Theory inspired him to make The Chronic. That's what music does." Meanwhile, "Show Business" coined the immortal quote "Industry Rule #4080: Record company people are shady," while "Skypager" is the best song about outdated technology since Sir Mix-A-Lot made "Beepers."
There was also a little posse cut called "Scenario" which you may be familiar with...