Tricky with DJ Muggs and Grease, Juxtapose
Released: August 1999
When I first heard that Tricky was making his first "real" rap album, I got scared. I kept imagining what it might lead to: appearances on Total Request Live on MTV, duets with Puff Daddy on "It's All About the Durbans," and a sudden fascination with Mariah Carey. Luckily, before my mind exploded, I listened to Juxtapose. While there are notable appearances by various US and UK rappers, specifically DJ Muggs and Grease, and while this album does include more traditional rhythms and song structures than his previous two albums, Angels with Dirty Faces and Pre-Millennium Tension, this is nevertheless a Tricky album through and through. We still hear Tricky's mumbling, drug-damaged vocals; we still hear great female vocals (not Martina this time, but a singer named D'Na) that help soften the edge of Tricky's voice; we still get the great fractured beats and wonderful sampled guitar lines (especially on "For Real" and "Contradictive"), and we still get amazingly intense blue-brown--evocative, abstract, and bass-thumping--music that goes from one extreme (solitude) to another (a mad party) within the course of a single song. The best example of all this is "Contradictive," which is also Tricky's best song since "Suffocated Love." It is a song that begins with a simple electric guitar melody, then adds a single, sustained synth-organ note, and (along with drums, bass, etc.) builds (via Tricky's and Muggs' and Bob Khaleel's vocals) up and down across a great traditional song structure. I have no idea what the song is about, since I can't yet make out the lyrics, but it is as polished and as beautiful as anything on Maxinquaye or on Massive Attack's last album. That's saying something! Despite this album's brief 35:46 running time, this is probably Tricky's finest work since Maxinquaye. While I liked the previous two albums, the simple fact is that they alienated more people than they attracted. Tricky didn't change much and didn't compromise at all on Juxtapose. Rather, he found a way to make his challenging musical vision fit into the formal structures of rap and pop rather than (as had been the case) trying to bankrupt those structures from within. Look for this album to push Tricky back into the forefront of hip hop in the UK, and look for this album to finally push Tricky into the hip hop spectrum in the US.
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