Massive Attack


Massive Attack
Hamish Brown

With their roots in the Bristol, England, club scene of the early '80s, the members of Massive Attack originated trip-hop, one of the most influential sounds of the '90s, combining the rhythmic urgency of hip-hop, the freewheeling samples of the DJ's craft, soul-rich melodies, and dub-reggae's hefty, intoxicating bottom end.

The group began in 1983 as a loose collective of singers, rappers, DJs, and producers that staged parties under the name the Wild Bunch. Included in its ranks were Mushroom (Andrew Vowles) and Daddy G (Grant Marshall), as well as Nellee Hooper (later of Soul II Soul, and a producer for Madonna, Björk, and others), and Tricky [see entry]. The Wild Bunch released a 1986 cover of Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love," which became a European dance-club sensation, just as legal authorities began to clamp down on the Bristol party circuit. In 1987 graffiti artist 3-D (Robert Del Naja) joined Daddy G and Mushroom to form Massive Attack. A series of singles led to the 1991 release of Blue Lines, which featured an array of vocalists —including Shara Nelson, Tricky, and reggae singer Horace Andy —and promoted a somnambulatory beat that ran counter to the hyped-up dance rhythms of techno. On its 1994 followup, Protection, the group enlisted Everything But the Girl vocalist Tracey Thorn, who lent a jazzier feel and contributed songs, with additional vocals from Andy, Tricky, and Nigerian singer Nicolette. The next year saw the release of No Protection: Massive Attack vs. Mad Professor, a radical remix of Protection in league with the antic British reggae producer. Three years later, the group followed with Mezzanine (#60, pop), with guest vocalists Andy, Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins, and Sara Jay. The same year, an 11-CD box set, Singles 90/98, compiled remixes of a career's worth of singles. Mushroom left to pursue a solo career.

This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).

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