4th & Broadway
To answer “what is jazz?,” hand somebody Kind of Blue. For “what was trip-hop,” slide over Maxinquaye—the debut from former Massive Attack vocalist-producer, Tricky. The often murky, muddy sonics on Maxinquaye (named for Tricky’s mum) would go even grimier on his future releases, with Martina Topley-Bird singing out rays of sunshine beneath the cloudiness as his perfect foil. Standout ballad “Pumpkin” sounds how the best drugs imaginable might feel like. (“Overcome” and “Abbaon Fat Tracks” are like that too.) And “Black Steel” takes Public Enemy’s “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” to realms Chuck D never imagined.
Tricky’s debut long player takes some elements of his former band Massive Attacks’ approach — hip hop-derived rhythms, slow tempos, close-up, intimate, low-key rapping, and that anxious, noir atmosphere — and twists and stretches them to his own, bleak, unique purpose, resulting in a claustrophobic, tense hip hop / trip hop / goth hop album. Each song features vocals from Martina Topley-Bird and it’s her voice that really makes this album — certainly without her humanity, melody and hooks to balance out the intense sonic soup of murky atmospherics, grimy beats and Tricky’s bristling, subdued raps, it would be a much plainer and darker listen. Separated from its initial shock impact by nearly three decades, Maxinquaye remains a stark and striking original.