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Stylistic origins hip hop, british hip hop, alternative hip hop, downtempo, acid jazz, psychedelic rock, post-punk, club music, lounge
Cultural origins Early 1990s Bristol, United Kingdom
Typical instruments Keyboards (especially Rhodes), turntables, samplers, brass, strings
Mainstream popularity 1990s and 2000s in UK then US
Illbient-Post Trip Hop
(complete list)
Fusion genres
Trip rock
Regional scenes
Other topics
Bristol underground scene - Industrial hip-hop - Breakbeat - Nu jazz

Trip-hop is a music genre also known as the Bristol sound. The trip-hop description was applied to the musical trend in the mid-1990s of downtempo electronic music that grew out of England's hip hop and house scenes. It has been described as "Europe's alternative of choice in the second half of the '90s", and a one-up fusion "of Hip-Hop and Electronica until neither genre is recognizable."[1] It is thus categorized as a fairly experimental genre, and sometimes with elements of Dance.

The style is characterized by the reliance on breakbeats and a sample-heavy, often moody sound pioneered by Coldcut's remix of Eric B. & Rakim's Paid in Full. Trip hop gained notice via popular artists such as Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky, Björk, Goldfrapp, Moloko, Thievery Corporation, Amon Tobin, and rock-influenced sound groups such as Ruby, Bristol's band Ilya, California's DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, Unkle, and the UK's Gorillaz, Howie B., Morcheeba, originating from Hythe in Kent, Londoners Glideascope, New York's Bowery Electric, and Seattle's Anomie Belle[2] are also often associated with this sound. Massive Attack's debut album Blue Lines, is seen as the "blueprint" for the genre.[3] Various American hip hop artists and albums have been influenced by trip hop. Examples include artists Cannibal Ox, Mos Def, DJ Two14, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and producers Dan The Automator and Madlib.



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Trip hop originated in the mid '90s in Bristol, England,[4] during a time when American hip hop started to gain increasing popularity in Europe along with the then well established House music and dance scene.[citation needed] British DJs decided to put a local spin on the international phenomenon and developed hip hop into a different style, marking the birth of trip hop. The name is meant to suggest the spacey, down-tempo feeling of trip hop music. Originators in Bristol modified hip hop by adding a laid-back beat ("down tempo") – Bristol's signature sound in hip hop (trip hop's predecessor) was characterized by its emphasis on slow and heavy drum beats and a sound drawing heavily on acid jazz, Jamaican and dub music. Trip hop took root in Bristol partly because of its deeply rooted sound system culture and its relationship with a black identity. It is important to note that, as an important slave-trading centre in the 18th century, Bristol's black community has influenced black British identity for centuries. Under the influence of American hip hop from the 1980s both black and white British youth became consumers of hip hop. Hip hop in the UK was immediately fused with black soul and elements of dancehall.

The term "Trip hop" was coined by music journalist Andy Pemberton in the June 1994 issue of UK magazine Mixmag to describe the hip hop instrumental "In/Flux", a 1993 single by 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.[5] James Brendall termed the experience of trip-hop with the combination of "computers and dope".

Massive Attack's first album Blue Lines in 1991, is often seen as the first manifestation of the "Bristol hip hop movement" (known as the "First Coming of Bristol Sound"). 1994 and '95 saw trip hop near the peak of its popularity. Massive Attack released their second album entitled Protection. Those years also marked the rise of Portishead, Tricky and Red Snapper (although from London). Portishead's female lead singer Beth Gibbons' sullen voice was mixed with samples of music from the '60s and '70s, as well as sound effects from LPs, giving the group a distinctive style. Tricky's style was characterized by murmuring and low-pitched singing. Artists and groups like Portishead and Tricky led the second wave of the Bristol Movement. This second wave produced music that was dreamy and atmospheric, and sometimes deep and gloomy.

The London based band Archive developed trip hop into progressive rock with elements of both hip-hop and orchestral music recently with the Album Controlling Crowds (Part I-III and Part IV).

Post trip hop

Around 1994 Trip-Hop was applied to a wide variety of electronic music that was later divided into sub categories such as Big Beat, and Electro. After the success of Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky albums in '94 and '95, a new generation of trip hop artists emerged with a more standardized sound. "Post trip hop" artists included Morcheeba, Sneaker Pimps, Alpha, Mono, Mudville, The Aloof, Glideascope, Cibo Matto. These artists integrated trip hop with Ambience, R&B, Breakbeat, Drum 'n' Bass, Acid Jazz, New Age, etc. Parts of Trip-Hop even emerged as far away as Alt-Country with Patty Griffin's Flaming Red. Furthermore, vocals expanded beyond melancholy female voices. The first printed record for the use of the term "Post trip hop" was as late as October 2002 when British newspaper The Independent used it to describe Second Person and their hybrid sound. Trip hop has now developed into a diversified genre that is no longer limited to the "deep, dark style" of the early years, eliminating the original impression of trip hop as "dark and gloomy."

The overall feel of Trip-Hop has also reverberated in recent times to seemingly non related music genres and artists. Traces of the sound can be found in many works by artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Travis, Radiohead, Beth Orton, The Lonely Island, Stomacher, and Deftones. Pop stars have also used traces of trip-hop sound, such as Madonna, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Dido, Nelly Furtado, George Michael, Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue and Sia Furler.

In Bristol itself, the live action feel of trip hop left its evidence on the burgeoning late 90s drum'n'bass scene producing innovative styles of the sound such as Roni Size and Reprazent and Third Eye Foundation producing distinctively low-fi varieties of the clean cut London sound.

Trip hop description

James Lavelle, founding member of UNKLE and owner of the famous trip hop label Mo'Wax stated, in 1994, "British hip hop lacks the lyrical skills of US counterparts, but British kids have got the musical side, " and "They know about records. That's the step forward. Now they can do their own style, they don't have to copy anything."[5] An absence of vocals in trip hop (in its earliest days) led it to find its own voice by replacing vocals with more abstract sounds and having less of a focus on imitating American hip hop.[5]

Musical aesthetics

Trip hop is known for its melancholy, surreal aesthetics. This is due to the fact that several acts were inspired by post punk bands; in the 1990s, Massive Attack and Tricky both covered Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cure.[6][7][8]

In some instances, the trip hop sound relies on jazz samples, usually taken from old vinyl jazz records. This reliance on sampling has changed the way record labels deal with clearing samples for use in other people's tracks. Trip hop tracks often sample Rhodes pianos, saxophones, trumpets, and flutes, and develops in parallel to hip hop, each inspiring the other. However, categorically, Trip hop differs from hip hop in theme and overall tone. Instead of gangsta rap (e.g. NWA) or conscious rap (e.g. KRS-One) with its hard-hitting lyrics, trip hop offers a more aural atmospherics with instrumental hip-hop, turntable scratching, and breakbeat rhythms. Regarded in some ways as a nineties 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.[citation needed] As Simon Reynolds put it, "trip hop is merely a form of gentrification."[9]

Trip hop production is historically lo-fi, relying on analogue recording equipment and instrumentation for an ambience. Portishead, for example, record their material to old tape from real instruments, and then sample their recordings, rather than recording their instruments directly to a track. They also tend to put their drums through considerable compression.

Later artists have taken inspiration from many other sources including world and orchestral influences as well as film scores. In fact, artists such as DJ Shadow or Portishead extensively used film soundtracks as an influence with its acoustic instruments and orchestral sounds designed to create a mental imagery of a cinematic experience and immerse the listener to a mood of aural reverie rather than a focused attention to social commentaries or lyrics of gangsta rap.

See also


  1. ^ Slant Magazine Music Review: DJ Shadow: Endtroducing…
  2. ^ Liu, Marian (October 28, 2008). "Anomie Belle brings politically conscious trip hop to the Tractor Sunday". The Seattle Times. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c Pemberton, Andy (June 1994). "Trip Hop". Mixmag.
  6. ^ Tricky site "Tattoo" by Siouxsie and "The Lovecats" by Cure, covered by Tricky
  7. ^ Massive Attack site "SuperPredators" with a sample of "Metal Postcard" by Siouxsie& the Banshees
  8. ^ Massive Attack site"Man Next Door", with a sample of "10:15 Saturday Night" by The Cure]
  9. ^ Simon Reynolds, "Generation Ecstacy." p. 324.

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