A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory turns 25 on Saturday (Sept. 24), and Okayplayer celebrated the anniversary with a time lapse video of how a mural dedicated to the influential group was created.
On July 2, 2016, Tribe was honored with a mural on the side of Nu Clear Dry Cleaners on the corner of Linden Boulevard and 192nd Street. The location is significant because it is the site of their iconic 1991 video “Check the Rhime,” where diehards remember them rapping from that very rooftop.
In the nearly three-minute clip, there is commentary on the piece’s impact in the community from mural co-organizers Theron Smith and Ed Stevens, organizer and CEO of Heterdoxx, Inc. Leroy McCarthy, and mural artist Vince Ballentine. In an email interview with Complex, Ballentine explained that after he completed his Notorious B.I.G. piece in Clinton Hill, he continued working with McCarthy on developing an artist mural series that celebrated their lives.
“So we planned on doing the wall before Phife’s passing,” Ballentine says. “In the process of getting it together, Phife passed. So it turned into a tribute piece of a legacy. The project was completely funded with the support of the neighborhood and online contributions. Shout out HHDG [Hip Hop Discussion Group]. The cleaners was down with it and I started painting.”
Ballentine says it took him three days to complete the project. On how he brainstormed ideas for a Tribe mural, the artist didn’t want to stray away from the themes of the group’s albums, which is why the images of The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders covers immediately strike you. He credits the wooden faces of Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White on the wall with being McCarthy’s idea—a nice touch after everything was finished.
“When I think about paying respect to something I see as monumental, it becomes bigger than me. I’m not a fan of an artist that misrepresents something for their own shine,” he says. “The text was written by the same artist who created the original album artwork. He was down with it too. Those images are so memorable and made an impact on me as a kid. Why change up the formula?”
The video shows Jarobi’s father Benjamin White, Phife’s mother Cheryl Taylor, and Phife’s widow Deisha Head Taylor all admiring Ballentine’s latest mural. Though he doesn't know Tribe personally, he noted, "I spoke with Jarobi and he was with it."
“I’ve done murals all over New York but this one really effected people in a good way,” he says of the response. “It was dope to see how many people felt the same way I did.”
With The Low End Theory’s big anniversary tomorrow, fans like Ballentine will pay tribute to hip-hop’s beloved Native Tongue members—maybe even share a favorite memory or two. Says Ballentine: “RIP Phife Dawg, Peace to Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed, and Jarobi. Thank you for the memories."