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Trip Hop

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Primary Stylistic Influences:
Secondary Stylistic Influences:

Trip-hop is a genre of Electronic Music that is also very heavily influenced by Hip-Hop (particularly the Alternative variety) and Alternative Rock. Other influences are quite common as well, though- Psychedelic Rock, Folk Music, Reggae (especially Dub- almost all Trip-Hop is Dub-influenced), Blues, Jazz, Funk, Soul, Industrial, Dream Pop, Goth Rock, Post-Punk, World Music and sometimes even Country influences have all popped up in the genre from time to time.

The genre is generally characterized by slow, drugged-out sounding, often processed breakbeats (a breakbeat, for those not in the know, is basically the standard Hip-Hop beat- 4 / 4, but not straight 4 / 4, with the about half of the drum hits usually falling off-beat to varying extents; the name comes from the fact that the earliest examples were often sampled from drum/percussion breakdowns or "breaks" in old Funk, Soul and Disco records) and copious amounts of Sampling, though live instruments are fairly common as well, as are programmed synths and drum machines. Deep, Dub-influenced basslines are another common element, as are spooky atmospherics, often obtained by heavily processing samples (usually from old, crackly vinyl records, but not always) or doing the same to live instrumentation (guitars and keyboards being the most common). It often has a much "warmer" or "murkier" feel than other subgenres of Electronic Music, due to all the live instruments and samples taken from old records.

Vocally, the genre can feature rapping, but doesn't have to- Perishing Alt-Rock Voice is common, as is high-pitched, melodic female singing, but almost any kind of vocal style can appear. Or none at all- Instrumentals are not unheard of, either. It's also not unheard of for multiple vocalists and vocal styles to appear on a single track, due to collaborations and guest vocalists being common within the genre (many artists better thought of as production groups than as actual bands in the Rock sense- Massive Attack are an excellent example of this).

The genre's origins are in the late 80s / early 90s in England, with predecessors including Dub-influenced Industrial group Renegade Soundwave, various Adrian Sherwood-produced artists like Gary Clail and Tackhead and the British Hip-Hop group The Wild Bunch. However, the most important early Trip Hop group was Massive Attack, who had evolved out of The Wild Bunch. Massive Attack became popular in England and Europe within a short time of their debut album Blue Lines (1991), and by the time its follow-up, Protection, arrived in 1994, many other artists were following in their footsteps to varying extents, or had come to a vaguely comparable sound on their own. Björk (who was never a perfect fit for the genre, but who was vaguely affiliated with it) and Portishead broke through to mainstream audiences in '93 / '94, and other artists followed suit.

By the late 90s, however, the genre had come to be seen as essentially "easy-listening" or "elevator music", and had faded from view due to overexposure (TV commercials and movies used it quite extensively during this period) and competition from the related (but much harder-edged) Big Beat sound of groups like The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy and Fatboy Slim. However, Massive Attack and Björk retained popularity by continuing to evolve (Bjork arguably left it after her first few albums), and the genre never really died, it just went back underground. Numerous older groups are still around, and the occasional newer artist has emerged. Meanwhile, the more mellow, easy-listening-leaning groups like AIR, Morcheeba and Zero 7 would later kickstart the Downtempo subgenre.

See also Alternative Dance (Trip-Hop is arguably a subgenre of it), Alternative Hip Hop (a big influence), Instrumental Hip Hop (which it often overlaps with) and the Industrial Hip-Hop subgenre of Industrial, as well as Acid Jazz (similar feel and influences, but mostly live-based and Funk / Jazz influenced) and Big Beat (a related, but much much faster and more aggressive subgenre of Electronic Music that was popular in the late 90s) for related genres.

Artists who play Trip-Hop include:

Trip-Hop as a genre provides examples of:

  • Creator Backlash: Most of the artists in this genre have spoken openly about their dislike of the phrase 'trip hop', claiming it underestimates the sounds they set out to achieve. They have also been critical about their reputation for being used as "dinner party" music, which has led to artists like Portishead and Massive Attack shifting into darker and more abrasive territory on subsequent albums.
  • Sampling: An essential part of the genre's aesthetic- examples are too numerous to list. Old, scratchy vinyl is favored.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Sometimes, though not in the same way as Metal bands- it's not uncommon for a male rapper to duet or trade parts with a tuneful soprano. Tricky's debut album Maxinquaye is a good example, with Tricky himself as the gravel occasionally dueting with his then-wife and soprano Martina Topley-Bird.