Producer, engineer and composer Bob Power says that he had a clear directive when working on A Tribe Called Quest’s 1991 album, The Low End Theory.
“It was very clear,” Power says during an interview with Red Bull Music Academy. “It was the name itself. The bass and bottom was so important to the Hip Hop ethic. Both the name itself as well as [Q-]Tip and Ali [Shaheed Muhammad] pushing me towards certain things sonically… Yeah, it was pretty clear that Low End Theory, this record at least sonically a lot of it is going to be about the bottom.”
When it was time to record the group’s follow-up, 1993’s Midnight Marauders, Power says the goal had changed.
“Tip was very specific and told me that he didn’t want to clean it up,” Power says. “He wanted it to be gritty. On Low End Theory I took a lot of care to clean things up. For example, if there was a sample that was meant to be there primarily for the flute part, I would do everything I could to get rid of the parts in the music other than that flute part. Same thing with surface noise from the record or kicks and little clicks and pops.”
Power’s work with the Native Tongues led to his appearance on “I Am I Be,” a cut from De La Soul’s 1993 album, Buhloone Mind State.
“’I Am I Be’ is an incredible piece of work,” he says. “When I listen to it now I realize it was the first time in hip hop I heard an overt confessional about what this person was on the inside. Of course De La – and particularly Pos[dnuos] – have always been ahead of the curve on that one.”