#36: Anita Baker, ‘Rapture’ (1986) vs. A Tribe Called Quest, ‘The Low End Theory’ (1991)

Low End Theory is a hip hop masterpiece. This was the one that got me hooked on the jazzy-funky world of 90s hip hop. This album just hits my sweet spot. There are so many things to love about it. The boom bap “hits-da-high-hat” rhythm. The smooth rapping prowess of Q-tip and the late great Phife Dawg. It’s elevated song writing. Perhaps my favourite part of Low End Theory is its strong jazz influence. From recruiting legend Ron Carter to drop a funky-smooth upright baseline on the classic “Verses from the Abstract”, to sampling jazz fusion legend band Weather Report’s Birdland on “Butter”, Low End Theory set the bar for alternative hip hop. Defining a new form of hip hop (hands down my favourite era of the genre). The stone cold jams are endless. “Excursions”, “Buggin’ Out”, “Vibes and Stuff”, “Check the Rhyme”, and finishing on the high powered rap ensemble juggernaut “Scenario”. It doesn’t get much better than Low End Theory.

If anyone could battle against these 90s rap legends, it’s the strong satin sheets power of Anita Baker and her titanic soul-jazz album Rapture. I had no idea how freaking good this album was. This is not kids’ music. Anita Baker was my parents’ music, in heavy rotation on the local easy listening radio stations.  Because of this, I overlooked her greatness.  Well, no longer.  Anita’s voice is like no other, with its low register power and off note vocal tones. Her mighty voice is unmatched. Musically there are no slouchy songs on Rapture. Starting with “Sweet Love”, she grabs hold and doesn’t let go, leaving one in a heap on the floor from sheer exhaustion.

Anita was my parents’ music. And that’s a good thing. I am a parent. I get it now. Rapture is the blueprint for what adult romance should be. Rapture is a complex, well crafted mature escape. It is confident, sexual, experienced, loving, and healing. It’s got this low sway feel that makes me think of candle light dinners, red wine, conversation and laughter. We have a lot to learn from Anita.

Anita is the mature soul mother to those funky fresh kids of the 90s. But guess what mom! This is our time and these funky fresh kids from the 90s rule!


WINNER: Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory (2 points)


80s: 7

90s: 8

80s: 9
90s: 11

Next week’s battle – #35: Metallica, Kill ’em All (1983) vs. Wilco, Being There (1996)

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