First Impressions: The 50 Best Album-Opening Songs in Rap History

5. A Tribe Called Quest "Excursions" (1991)

Producer: A Tribe Called Quest
Album: The Low End Theory
Label: Jive/RCA Records


In one of rap's great cosmic alignments, the very first thing you hear on The Low End Theory is the sound of a bass played by a man named Mickey Bass. Q-Tip lifted the main ingredient for this song from a 1973 recording of "A Chant For Blue" by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, for whom Mr. Bass played the titular instrument. The Low End Theory happens to be the album where Tribe became confirmed jazz messengers and in his first couple lines Q-Tip immediately draws the connection between hip-hop and bebop. It wouldn't take long for the fusion of jazz and rap to become a cliché-apologies to any surviving members of Dream Warriors-but "Excursions" represents the ground floor, the place where Tribe proved beyond any doubt that rhymes could swing and upright bass could sting. —Sam Sweet

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