Trip hop (sometimes used synonymously with “downtempo”) is a musical genre that originated in the early 1990s in the United Kingdom, especially Bristol.
It has been described as “a fusion of hip-hop and Electronica until neither genre is recognizable,” and may incorporate a variety of styles, including funk, dub, soul, psychedelia, R&B, and house, as well as other forms of electronic music. Trip hop can be highly experimental.
Deriving from later idioms of acid house, the term was first used by the British music media to describe the more experimental variant of breakbeat emerging from the Bristol Sound scene in the early 1990s, which contained influences of soul, funk, and jazz.
It was pioneered by acts like Massive Attack, Tricky, and Portishead. Trip hop achieved commercial success in the 1990s and has been described as Europe’s alternative choice in the second half of the ’90s.
The term “trip-hop” first appeared in print in June 1994. Andy Pemberton, a music journalist writing for Mixmag, used it to describe Mo’ Wax Records Artist (U.K.) RPM and (American) DJ Shadow’s “In/Flux” single.
In Bristol hip hop began to seep into the consciousness of a subculture already well-schooled in Jamaican forms of music. DJs, MCs, b-boys and graffiti artists grouped together into informal sound systems.
Like the pioneering Bronx crews of DJs Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash, the soundsystems provided party music for public spaces, often in the economically deprived council estates from which some of their members originated.
Bristol’s soundsystem DJs, drawing heavily on Jamaican dub music, typically used a laid-back, slow and heavy drum beat (“downtempo“).
Bristol’s Wild Bunch crew became one of the sound systems to put a local spin on the international phenomenon, helping to birth Bristol’s signature sound of trip-hop, often termed “the Bristol Sound“.
The Wild Bunch and its associates included at various times in its existence the MC Adrian “Tricky Kid” Thaws, the graffiti artist and lyricist Robert “3D” Del Naja, producer Jonny Dollar and the DJs Nellee Hooper, Andrew “Mushroom” Vowles and Grant “Daddy G” Marshall.
As the hip-hop scene matured in Bristol and musical trends evolved further toward acid jazz and house in the late 1980s, the golden era of the sound system began to end.
The Wild Bunch signed a record deal and evolved into Massive Attack, a core collective of 3D, Mushroom and Daddy G, with significant contributions from Tricky Kid (soon shortened to Tricky), Dollar, and Hooper on production duties, along with a rotating cast of other vocalists.
Another influence came from Gary Clail’s Tackhead soundsystem. Clail often worked with former The Pop Group singer Mark Stewart.
The latter experimented with his band Mark Stewart & the Maffia, which consisted of New York session musicians Skip McDonald, Doug Wimbish, and Keith LeBlanc, who had been a part of the house band for the Sugarhill Records record label.
Produced by Adrian Sherwood, the music combined hip hop with experimental rock and dub and sounded like a premature version of what later became trip hop.
In 1993, Kirsty MacColl released “Angel“, one of the first examples of the genre-crossing over to pop, a hybrid that dominated the charts toward the end of the 1990s.
Massive Attack’s first album Blue Lines was released in 1991 to huge success in the UK.
Blue Lines was seen widely as the first major manifestation of a uniquely British hip hop movement, but the album’s hit single “Unfinished Sympathy” and several other tracks, while their rhythms were largely sample-based, were not seen as hip hop songs in any conventional sense.
Produced by Dollar, Shara Nelson (an R&B singer) featured on the orchestral “Unfinished“, and Jamaican dancehall star Horace Andy provided vocals on several other tracks, as he would throughout Massive Attack’s career.
Massive Attack released their second album entitled Protection in 1994. Although Tricky stayed on in a lesser role, and Hooper again produced, the fertile dance music scene of the early 1990s had informed the record, and it was seen as an even more significant shift away from the Wild Bunch era.
In the June 1994 issue of UK magazine Mixmag, music journalist Andy Pemberton used the term trip hop to describe the hip hop instrumental “In/Flux“, a 1993 single by San Francisco’s DJ Shadow, and other similar tracks released on the Mo’ Wax label and being played in London clubs at the time.
“In/Flux”, with its mixed up bpms, spoken word samples, strings, melodies, bizarre noises, prominent bass, and slow beats, gave the listener the impression they were on a musical trip, according to Pemberton.
Soon, however, Massive Attack’s dubby, jazzy, psychedelic, electronic textures, rooted in hip hop sampling technique but taking flight into many styles, were described by journalists as the template of the eponymous genre.
In 1993, Icelandic musician Björk released Debut, produced by Wild Bunch member Nellee Hooper. The album, although rooted in four-on-the-floor house music, contained elements of trip hop and is credited as one of the first albums to introduce electronic dance music into mainstream pop.
She had been in contact with London’s underground electronic music scene and was romantically involved with trip hop musician Tricky. Björk embraced trip hop even more with her 1995 album Post by collaborating with Tricky and Howie B. Homogenic, her 1997 album, has been described as a pinnacle of trip hop music.
1994 and 1995 saw trip hop near the peak of its popularity, with artists such as Howie B and Earthling making significant contributions.
Ninja Tune, the independent record label founded by the Coldcut duo, would significantly influence the trip-hop sound in London and beyond with breakthrough artists DJ Food, 9 Lazy 9, Up, Bustle & Out, Funki Porcini and The Herbaliser, among others.
The period also marked the debut of two acts who, along with Massive Attack, would define the Bristol scene for years to come.
Trip hop continued to influence notable artists in the 2000s. Norwegian avant-garde band Ulver incorporated trip hop in their ambient/electronic/jazzy album Perdition City.
Atmospheric rock band Antimatter included some trip hop elements in their first two albums. Australian composer Rob Dougan proposed a mix of trip hop beats, orchestral music, and electronics. RJD2 began his career as a DJ, but in 2001, began releasing albums under El-P’s Def Jux Label.
Zero 7’s album Simple Things, and in particular, its lead single “Destiny“, was regarded highly by underground listeners and achieved significant popularity.
In 2006, Gotye debuted his second studio album, Like Drawing Blood. The songs on the album featured down-tempo hip-hop beats and dub style bass reminiscent of trip hop.
Hip hop groups Zion I and the Dub Pistols also displayed heavy trip hop influence. Norwegian singer and songwriter Kate Havnevik is a classically trained musician but also incorporates trip hop into her work.
Many producers who were not explicitly trip-hop artists also displayed its influence during the early 2000s. Daniel Nakamura, aka Dan The Automator, released two albums that were heavily inspired by trip hop.
2000 album Deltron 3030, was a concept album about a rapper, portrayed by Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, from the future. 2001 saw the release of his side project, Lovage. Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By, with special guests Mike Patton, Prince Paul, Maseo, Damon Albarn, and Afrika Bambaataa.
British producer Fatboy Slim’s breakthrough album, Halfway Between the Gutter and The Stars, was his most commercially successful release.
*This article was originally published at en.wikipedia.org.