I think that Tricky leapt into my consciousness at the same time as Portishead did through a shared sample and their linking together under the trip-hop banner. Massive Attack had floated somewhere on the periphery of my awareness for a long time but it was Tricky that really plugged into my consciousness. He is one of my all time favourite artists and has to be one of the most sonically interesting musicians to hit the mainstream in a long time. I know saying that at the moment when he seems to be somewhat less active than he used to be might seem stupid but after the trip-hop morass swelled to include a thousand watered down imitators he stood head and shoulders above them all.
He managed to stay edgy throughout. Maxinquaye
is definitely one of the defining albums of not only the trip-hop subgenre but also of that period of time, containing one of the best cover version of all time in Black Steel. Pre-Millennium Tension
weaved a denser more claustrophobic soundscape around lyrics that are like condensed smoke moving fluidly through the psyche. Nearly God
explored those same murky backwaters and dragged in some new collaborators — Bjork, Cath Coffey, Neneh Cherry and even Alison Moyet. I don’t think Angels With Dirty Faces
was his best offering ever but it had him teaming up with P J Harvey for Broken Homes
I think where he stood apart, for me at least, was that he didn’t seem overly concerned or trapped by the idea that he had to out-strip his previous efforts by being wilfully perverse in how he crafted his sound just to stay a step ahead. His sounds came out of a very organic process as seen in the documentary that accompanies his video compilation best of.
I think he moved towards a more traditional model of hip-hop for a second there but he seems incapable of staying still long enough for a label to properly affix. And his is not a world consumed by the macho bullshit of bitches and bling. This is a guy totally at home wearing dresses and make-up and writing lyrics about being fucked in the arse. He is one of those people that you listen to and the chemistry of lyrics, vocals and music and sounds meld into an inspirational mix. Seriously — try listening to him and not feeling the creative juices flowing.
He gave us Goldfrapp, he gave us Martina Topley-Bird and most of all he gave us himself and his unique take on the world and the style of music that he has truly made his own.