Slow, chilled-out beats, haunting vocals, and eclectic samples are all hallmarks of the funk, reggae, and hip-hop influenced brand of electronic music that came to be known as trip-hop.
Originating in Bristol, a city located in the South West of England, trip-hop quickly captured worldwide attention, spawned some global superstars, and influenced generations of artists to come.
But which trip-hop albums are regarded as the best of the bunch? Let’s take a look at 5 commonly cited classics and give you the chance to check them out for yourself.
1. Massive Attack – Blue Lines
Massive Attack’s Blue Lines (1991) is one of the most prominent – and one of the first – albums of the trip-hop genre.
Unlike many of the subsequent trip-hop albums released, Massive Attack’s tracks captured the darker edge of electronic music, permeated by scratchy sampling and haunting electro elements that give the album a sense of disquiet against the chilled out backing.
Blue Lines was an unquestionably influential album, fusing a wide breadth of Black genres including rap, hip hop, reggae, and soul with a dark electro twist.
The intro track Safe From Harm is a jarring opening to the album, with an agitated baseline riﬀ and edgy rap verses that complement Nelson’s haunting vocals of ‘If you hurt what’s mine, I’ll sure as hell retaliate’. There is a sense of suspense throughout the song, amplified by the twitchy electric guitar that sets this track apart from the typical trip-hop feel.
This disconcerting feel is amplified by the bluesy melancholia of One Love, which combines catchy repetition with the soulful male vocals of reggae roots singer Horace Andy. Its minimalist approach eﬀectively creates a melodic ambience that is darkly atmospheric.
Be Thankful For What You’ve Got lifts the album to a chill-out vibe with a touch of soul and a bouncy bassline that harmonises perfectly with the vocals. There are electronic elements throughout the track, but this is a complement more than a feature, not detracting from the heart of the melody. This track is classic, memorable, and adds a touch of lightness to the album which adds yet another layer to the complexity of Massive Attack’s music.
Blue Lines is a fundamental foundation of the trip-hop category, and a complex and skilful approach to combining genres.