Story By Michael A. Gonzales
In 1997 I was a Tricky fiend. Over a two-year period beginning with his debut Maxinquaye in 1995, Tricky and his musical partner Martina Topley-Bird were recording and releasing some of the most innovative material of that era. And what an era the ’90s were for reggae, hip hop, and the UK underground, which seeped its into my speakers all the way in Brooklyn. Follow-up projects Nearly God, Grassroots, Pre-Millennium Tension (recorded at Grove Studios in Ocho Rios) and the many remixes took his sound giant steps beyond the other artists were doing. Story & Videos After The Jump…
Naked and Famous is a documentary about Tricky made in 1997 that captures the vibe.
While critics were quick to label the material “trip-hop” or “electronica,” most failed to acknowledge the West Indian sound-system (Tricky is half Jamaican) and hip-hop sides of his work. Raised in Bristol, England surrounded by the turntables blaring sounds on various sides of the musical spectrum from his Wild Bunch bros, that variety became a part of his own aural understanding. Years later Tricky would master-mix those influences with rock, pop and jazz to create his own hybrid sound.
It was his sound collages, as well as Martina’s beautiful voice and his often brilliant lyrics that made me a fan; the music also made me curious of the duo’s history. In the winter of 1997 I was blessed to go on tour with Tricky and document the scene he was a part of that included hanging (and working) with Rastas, b-boys, party people and emerging divas. One minute he was talking about Lee Scratch Perry and Bob Marley, the next he was going on Rakim and Slick Rick. The VIBE magazine feature “Weeded, Wicked & Wise” (with photos by Mpozi Mshale Tolbert (1972-2006) was published in the April 1997 issue with the the Mary J. Blige cover, and edited by my friend Rob Kenner, who now operates Boomshots.
Decades later, I consider that story a milestone in my music journalism career and often revisit the albums that lured me into Tricky’s strange world so many years ago. Those were the thoughts going on in my head when another former editor, Aaron Gilbreath, who I worked with at Longreads, asked if I would be interested in contributing to his site Alive in the Nineties. There were more than few artists that I considered, but none seemed as culturally relevant as Tricky. Check it out the piece “B-Boy Rock Star,” right here.
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