The Low End Theory is the second studio album by American hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, released on September 24, 1991, by Jive Records. Recording sessions for the album were held mostly at Battery Studios in New York City, from 1990 to 1991. Largely produced by group member Q-Tip, it is a departure from the group's debut album, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990), enveloping a minimalist sound that combines bass, drum breaks and jazz samples. Lyrically, the album features social commentary, word play, humor and interplay between group members Q-Tip and Phife Dawg.
Supported by the lead single "Check the Rhime", The Low End Theory debuted at number 45 on the Billboard 200 chart. Upon its release, the album's commercial potential was doubted by music writers and Jive record executives. However, the release of two additional singles, "Jazz (We've Got)" and "Scenario", brought further attention and popularity to the group. On February 19, 1992, the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), with shipments of 500,000 copies in the United States, and on February 1, 1995, it was certified platinum by the RIAA, with shipments of one million copies.
In the years since its release, The Low End Theory has garnered recognition from music critics and writers as a milestone in alternative hip hop. The album is regarded as Phife Dawg's breakout and is credited for helping launch rapper Busta Rhymes's successful solo career. The album's influence on artists in hip hop, R&B and other genres has been attributed to the group's lyricism and Q-Tip's production, which bridged the gap between jazz and hip hop. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time, appearing on many best album lists by music critics and writers.