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Napster University: Trip-Hop 101

by Philip Sherburne

Napster University: Trip-Hop 101


For the entire month of September, Napster is offering our Music 101 course, a 30-day deep dive into everything from early jazz to the rise of hip-hop to the hottest new global sensations. Each day we'll provide you with a fascinating new listening experience and a quick education on the origins and significance of a different musical genre, subgenre, scene, trend or fad.

"Trip-hop" was a terrible term, but, two decades on, we're kind of stuck with it. At least it's better than "blunted beats" (and way better than "blunted beatz"), another term that attached itself to a nebulous strain of moody, nocturnal, horizontally inclined electronic music that emerged in the early mid-1990s.

Epitomized by the dubby, atmospheric boom-bap of Portishead, Massive Attack and Tricky, trip-hop never really had any hard-and-fast criteria to delineate it. As you might guess from the name, hip-hop beats were often a common denominator, along with a faintly lysergic sensibility that reinforced the music's reputation as the ideal soundtrack for the day after raving. But the sounds that fell under its ample umbrella ranged widely, from DJ Shadow's instrumental hip-hop to Mr. Scruff's winking takes on jazz and soul, and from Kruder & Dorfmeister's upscale lounge music to the downtempo pop of acts like Air and Zero 7.

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