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Trip hop
Stylistic origins Electronica, dub, alternative hip hop, alternative dance, house, experimental rock, acid jazz, soul, neo-psychedelia, lounge, post-punk, alternative rock[1][2]
Cultural origins Early 1990s Bristol, United Kingdom
Typical instruments Keyboards (especially Rhodes), synthesizer, samplers, brass, turntables, strings, guitar, bass, saxophone, flute
IllbientPost-trip hop
(complete list)
Fusion genres
Trip rock
Regional scenes
Other topics
Bristol underground sceneIndustrial hip-hopBreakbeatNu jazz

Trip hop is a genre of electronic music that originated in the early 1990s in the United Kingdom, especially Bristol. Deriving from "post"-acid house,[3] the term was first used by the British music media and press as a way to describe the more experimental variant of breakbeat which contained influences of soul, funk and jazz.[3] It has been described as "Europe's alternative choice in the second half of the '90s", and "a fusion of hip hop and electronica until neither genre is recognisable."[4] Trip hop music fuses several styles and has much in common with other genres; it has several qualities similar to ambient music[3] and its drum-based breakdowns share characteristics with hip hop.[3] It also contains elements of R&B, dub and house, as well as other electronic music. Trip hop can be highly experimental in nature.[3]



Trip hop originated in and around the city of Bristol[5] during a time when American hip hop, dance and house music had begun to increase in popularity. According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, the term "trip-hop" was coined in 1989,[6] though its earliest use in print was in June 1994; Andy Pemberton, a music journalist writing for Mixmag, used it to describe Mo Wax Records Artist (U.K) R.P.M and (American) DJ Shadow's "In/Flux" single.[7] The original hip hop artists of the 1970s had been Jamaican-born New Yorkers, but when new forms of American MCing and DJing began to rise in popularity, these original Caribbean influences were eventually lost. The UK hip-hop scene tended to sample Jamaican music more often, due to the Caribbean ancestry of the British black population, and the existing mass British popularity of reggae, dancehall and dub in the 1980s.

In Bristol, once one of the most important ports in the Atlantic slave-trade and as of 2012 among Britain's most racially diverse cities, 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 soundsystems. Like the pioneering Bronx crews of DJs Kool Herc, Afrika Bambataa 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 ("down tempo").

Bristol's Wild Bunch crew was one of the soundsystems to put a local spin on the international phenomenon, helping to birth Bristol's signature sound of trip hop. 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 '80s, the golden era of the soundsystem was ending. 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 was 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.[8] Produced by Adrian Sherwood, the music combined hiphop with experimental rock and dub and sounded like a premature version of what later became trip hop.

Early to mid-1990s: Trip-hop's mainstream breakthrough

Sample of "Teardrop" by Massive Attack, from Mezzanine – main theme, in the US, for the Fox Network's TV show House, MD.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

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 dance hall 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 '90s had informed the record, and it was seen as an even more significant shift away from the Wild Bunch era.

The term trip hop was coined that year, but not in reference to anything on the Massive Attack albums. In the June 1994 issue of UK magazine Mixmag, music journalist Andy Pemberton used it 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.[10] 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.

1994 and 1995 saw trip hop near the peak of its popularity, with artists such as Howie B, Naked Funk and Earthling making significant contributions. Those years also marked the rise of London band Red Snapper. 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.

In 1994 Portishead released their debut album, Dummy. A trio fronted by singer Beth Gibbons, Portishead also included sonic manipulators Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley. Their background differed from Massive Attack in many ways: one of Portishead's primary influences was 1960s and '70s film soundtrack LPs. Nevertheless, Portishead shared the scratchy, jazz-sample-based aesthetic of early Massive Attack (who Barrow had briefly worked with during the recording of Blue Lines), and the sullen, fragile vocals of Gibbons also brought them wide acclaim. In 1995, Dummy was awarded the Mercury Music Prize as the best British album of the year, giving trip-hop as a genre its greatest exposure yet. Portishead's music, seen as cutting edge in its film noir feel and stylish, yet emotional appropriations of past sounds, was also widely imitated, causing the band to recoil from the trip-hop label they had inadvertently helped popularize.

Tricky also released his debut solo album, Maxinquaye, in 1995 - to great critical acclaim. Tricky employed whispered, often abstract stream-of-consciousness murmuring, remote from the gangsta-rap braggadocio of the mid '90s US hip hop scene. Even more unusually, however, many of the solo songs on Maxinquaye featured little of Tricky's own voice: his then-lover, Martina Topley-Bird, sang them, including her reimagining of Public Enemy's militant 1988 rap "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos", while other songs were male-female duets dealing with sex and love in oblique ways, over beds of sometimes dissonant samples. Within a year Tricky had released two more full-length albums which were considered[by whom?] even more challenging, without finding the same popularity as his Bristol contemporaries Massive Attack and Portishead. Through his brief collaborations with Björk, however, he also exerted influence closer to the pop and alternative rock mainstream, and he developed a large cult fan-base.

Musician Poe released her 1995 debut Hello, an album that featured Trip-Hop elements, to critical praise.

The London-based band Archive began as trip hop, before developing into progressive rock, employing elements of both hip hop and orchestral music recently with the album Controlling Crowds (Part I-III and Part IV).

Post-trip hop

After the initial success of trip hop in the mid-1990s, a new generation of trip hop artists emerged with a more standardized sound. Notable "post-trip-hop" artists include Esthero, Morcheeba, Sneaker Pimps, Anomie Belle,[14] Alpha, Jaianto, Mudville and Cibo Matto. These artists incorporated trip hop into other genres, including ambient, soul, IDM, experimental industrial, dubstep, breakbeat, drum 'n' bass, acid jazz, and new age. The first printed use of the term "post-trip hop" was in an October 2002 article of The Independent, and was used to describe the band Second Person.

Trip hop has also influenced artists in other genres, including Gorillaz, Emancipator, Nine Inch Nails, Travis, Allflaws, How to Destroy Angels,[15] Beth Orton, The Flaming Lips, Bitter:Sweet, Beck, Deftones[16] and Björk. Several tracks on Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue's 1997 album Impossible Princess also suggested a trip hop influence.[17]

Various prominent artists and groups, such as Janet Jackson,[18] Kylie Minogue,[19] Madonna,[20][21] Björk,[22][23][24] and Radiohead,[25] have also been influenced by the genre. Trip hop has spawned several subgenres, including Illbient, (dub-based trip hop which combines ambient and industrial hip hop).

Trip hop in the 2000s

Trip hop continued to influence notable artists in the 2000s. Atmospheric rock band Antimatter included some trip hop elements in their first two albums. RJD2 began his career as a DJ, but in 2001, began releasing albums under El-P's Def Jux Label.[26] Zero 7's album Simple Things, and in particular, its lead single "Destiny", was regarded highly by underground listeners and achieved significant popularity.[27] In 2006, Gotye debuted his first album Like Drawing Blood. The songs on the album featured down-tempo hip-hop beats and dub style bass reminiscent of trip hop.[28] Hip-Hop groups Zion I and the Dub Pistols also displayed heavy trip hop influence.[29][30] 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,[31] 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,[32] with special guests Mike Patton, Prince Paul, Maseo, Damon Albarn, and Afrika Bambaataa. British producer Fatboy Slim's break through album, Halfway Between the Gutter and The Stars,[33] was his most commercially successful release.

Trip hop in the 2010s

Major notable releases include Massive Attack's Heligoland [34] and Dutch's A Bright Cold Day in 2010,[35] DJ Shadow's The Less You Know, The Better in 2011[36] and Geoff Barrow's >> (">>" is the actual title of the album) in 2012. [37]

Musical elements

Common musical aesthetics include a bass-heavy drumbeat, often emulating the slowed breakbeat samples typical of hip hop in the 1990s. Vocals in trip hop are often female and feature characteristics of various singing styles including R&B, jazz and rock. The female-dominant vocals of trip hop may be partially attributable to the influence of genres such as jazz and early R&B in which female vocalists were more common. However, there are notable exceptions; Massive Attack has collaborated with male and female singers. Tricky often features vocally in his own productions and Chris Corner provided vocals for late albums with his group Sneaker Pimps.

Trip hop is also known for its melancholy. This may be partly due to the fact that several acts were inspired by post punk bands; Tricky and Massive Attack both covered and sampled songs of Siouxsie and the Banshees[38][39] and The Cure.[40][41] Tricky opened his second album Nearly God by a version of "Tattoo", a pre-trip-hop song of Siouxsie and the Banshees.[42]

Trip hop tracks often sample Rhodes pianos, saxophones, trumpets, and flutes. Trip hop differs from hip hop in theme and overall tone. Instead of gangsta rap with its hard-hitting lyrics, trip hop offers a more aural atmospherics with instrumental hip hop, turntable scratching, and breakbeat rhythms. Regarded[by whom?] in some ways as a 90s update of fusion, trip hop may be said to 'transcend' the hardcore rap styles and lyrics with atmospheric overtones to create a more mellow tempo that has less to do with black American urbanite attitude and more to do with a middle-class British impression of hip hop. As Simon Reynolds put it, "trip hop is merely a form of gentrification."[43]

See also


External links

  • "Trip Hop Radio" Internet radio
  • "Trip-Hop" Allmusic guide essay by Sean Cooper
  • "World of Trip Hop" Webpage
  • Triptica - An internet Radio dedicated to Trip Hop
  • NPR's history of trip hop
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