It's Not What You Think It Is!?!! album cover
It's Not What You Think It Is!?!!

Tek 9

SSR (4)

In 1996 it could feel like the trip-hop wave had crested. It was a year since Maxinquaye and Smoker’s Delight and two since Dummy, and every man jack and his dog was putting low and slow beats and rudimentary scratching on everything. But for every lazy repetition of tropes there was a fresh iteration of downtempo loungey hip hop, and who better to demonstrate that than Dego of 4Hero? His Tek 9 alias had previously been used for experimental hardcore and ruthlessly taut jungle, but on this album he is in the mood to kick back and relax, albeit in the most sophisticated fashion. He already had form for jazzy hip hop, but here he really let it breathe, with snaking Fender Rhodes lines unfolding across whole tracks, with plenty of Lalo Schifrin suspense and space age bachelor pad stylishness, but also some good times vocoder soul, genial rap verses and a King Britt co-production on “Gettin’ Down Again,” and just a sprinkling of jungle syncopation to remind us that we were still in London. He probably doesn’t want it called trip-hop (nobody really did by 1996), but it is genuinely trippy and definitely hip hop.

Joe Muggs

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