by RJ Wheaton
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Pub Date 17 Nov 2022 | Archive Date 17 Dec 2022
A complete guide to the trip-hop genre.
Trip-hop described some of the best music of the 1990s. It was also one of the decade’s most revealing bad ideas.
The music itself was an intoxication of beats, bass, and voice. It emerged amid the social tensions of the late 1980s as hip-hop rose to global dominance. It carried the innovations of Jamaican sound system culture, the sweet refuge of Lovers Rock, and the bliss of post-rave chillout rooms. It went mainstream with artists like Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky, DJ Shadow, and Björk and with record labels like Ninja Tune and Mo’ Wax. To the artists’ despair, the genre was tagged with a trivial label and packaged as music for the boutique and the lounge.
But the music at its best still sounds experimental and dramatic, and it can be heard in artists like FKA twigs, Sevdaliza, James Blake, Billie Eilish, and Lana Del Rey. This short book is a guide to trip-hop in its context of the weird 1990s: nostalgia and consumerism, pre-millennium angst and lo-fi technology, and casual exoticism amid accelerating globalization and gentrification. It presents a survey of the music and its leading artists, packed with recommended listening, essential tracks, great remixes, and under-recognized albums.
Genre: A 33 1/3 Series publishes short books about musical subgenres that have intrigued, perplexed, or provoked listeners.
RJ Wheaton is a Toronto-based music writer. He is the author of Portishead’s Dummy, also in Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 series.