If shoegaze is ‘the genre that celebrates itself’, then trip-hop is the exact opposite. Born out of the streets of 1980s Bristol, England, trip-hop’s main spearheads (seen then as the Holy Trinity of Portishead, Massive Attack and Tricky) all dismissed the term as lazy and inaccurate. Hindsight offers much clarity, and it’s obvious that these dismissals arose from fear of being pigeonholed as a fad.
However, there’s plenty reason to collect such acts under the label. Their common threads lie in the use of breakbeats (developed from the popularity of acid house) and slow-burning, atmospheric electronic soundscapes. Whether it came from jazz fusion or gangsta rap, sampling was also vital to the trip-hop sound; associated acts sampled and ‘borrowed’ even more than your average major-label rapper (and with much less legal drama too). One of the genre’s finest moments saw Tricky take Public Enemy’s ‘Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos’ and turn it into an anthem for weirdos and freaks.
The genre became less prevalent in the noughties, though in recent years trip-hop has emerged as an influence in a handful of artists, with London Grammar and FKA twigs among those sampling golden-age hip-hop records and using found breakbeats in their music.
This playlist serves as a guide outlining trip-hop’s life from the 1980s to present. Regardless of it’s unlikely founders’ opinions on the tag, the scene produced some of the most innovative and resourceful music of our time, and for that deserves our attention. Give it a listen here (recommended listening conditions: silence and low/no lighting).