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Album Review

Tricky's potential once seemed boundless, but by the time of his fifth album, Juxtapose, he hadn't expanded his trademark sound: a creeping, menacing blend of hip-hop, alternative rock, and ragga, all delivered with stoned paranoia. Perhaps Tricky realized that its rewards were smaller with each subsequent album, since he designed Juxtapose to be his most ambitious, eclectic album since Maxinquaye, and the one that finally broke him to the mainstream American hip-hop audience. So, he teamed with DJ Muggs (the architect of Cypress Hill's sound, a clear precedent for Tricky's) and DMX's producer, Grease. The end result is hardly a collaboration — in fact, it feels truncated, weighing in at a mere 35 minutes — but it works in other ways, since Tricky often seems revitalized. That much is evident on the stellar opening cut, "For Real"; the music is spaced-out, sexy, melodic, and appealing, even when it gets foreboding. It's a terrific beginning, suggesting that this will be the first album to offer significant variations on Tricky's signature sound. And it does, but it may not go far enough for some tastes, since a good portion of this brief album is devoted to retreads, which reveal his weaknesses all too well. Tricky remains unduly infatuated with ragga, letting British toaster Mad Dog run wild; his frenetic delivery single-handedly breaks the spell of each track he's featured on. But elsewhere, Tricky pushes forward in inventive ways that add weight to Juxtapose — "Contradictive" is his best pop move to date, blessed by Spanish guitars and elongated strings; the paranoid drums of "She Said" successfully deepen the menace; and "Scrappy Love" is a haunting blend of soul and trip-hop, with eerie piano reminiscent of DJ Shadow. Juxtapose is a qualified success, but it is a success since the moments that work are his best in years.


Born: 1964 in Knowle West, Bristol, Avon, Engla

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Originally, Tricky was a member of the Wild Bunch, a Bristol-based rap troupe that eventually metamorphosed into Massive Attack during the early '90s. Tricky provided pivotal raps on Massive Attack's groundbreaking 1992 album, Blue Lines. The following year, he released his debut single, "Aftermath." Before he recorded "Aftermath," he met a teenage vocalist named Martina,...
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Juxtapose, Tricky
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