photo & text by nacrowe
i was a senior in high school in KUWAIT when the 9/11 attacks happened and shortly thereafter i quickly departed the MIDDLE EAST to live with a relative in SACRAMENTO of all places. it was a jarring and disorientating time in my life, irrespective of geopolitics of the time. i was basically dropped overnight into a cultural backwater full of naive, privileged white kids and their parents. i got through it.
part of getting through it was developing a ravenous reading and listening schedule where i basically investigated everything that caught my interest. musically this included discovering and investigating POST PUNK, SHOEGAZE and TRIP HOP. it was an interesting time because not that long after i dove headfirst into groups like PORTISHEAD and MASSIVE ATTACK i saw TRICKY (with MARTINA TOPLEY-BIRD!) open for TOOL at the local stadium. the synergy of that moment was so cool, although some dick behind me was constantly asking his uninterested companion "who is this n----r?!", which is yet another reason why i will always continue to hate SACRAMENTO with a passion even over two decades later. i bought TRICKY's iconic debut MAXINQUAYE (4th & B'WAY, 1995) at the former TOWER RECORDS on columbus and bay near FISHERMAN'S WHARF in SAN FRANSCISCO right before flying home to NEW JERSEY after graduation in 2002. it was literally my last day in CALIFORNIA.
along with several APHEX TWIN releases, NOTHING'S SHOCKING (WARNER BROS, 1988) by JANE'S ADDICTION or TROUT MASK REPLICA (STRAIGHT, 1969) by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, MAXINQUAYE is definitely one of the most transformational records i have ever heard. it is a deeply personal yet highly idiosyncratic record that seemingly splits the difference between HIP HOP, REGGAE and ALTERNATIVE ROCK. named in reference to his mother who passed when he was four, the record is very much thematically tied to his mixed-race experience growing up in a BRISTOL council estate with immigrant parents. being one of the architects of the TRIP HOP sound through his collaborations with MASSIVE ATTACK, of which he is an extended member, there is a sense of the music being the creative embodiment of a new, diverse and multi-cultural GREAT BRITAIN. with his debut MAXINQUAYE, the music is much less optimistic and seemingly the perfect sound-bed to his lyrics on "PONDEROSA," "OVERCOME," "AFTERMATH," "HELL IS AROUND THE CORNER" and "SUFFOCATED LOVE" that deal with personal themes of PARANOIA, OPPRESSION and SELF-DECEPTION.
one of the defining traits of TRICKY as a songwriter is how he utilizes the female voice. the contributions of TOPLEY-BIRD cannot be understated, especially on haunted tracks such as the "PUMPKIN," "FEED ME," "ABBAON FAT TRACKS" and the PUBLIC ENEMY cover of "BLACK STEEL." its really interesting hearing a female singer voice the words of a male narrator, which is a juxtaposition that TRICKY has employed ever since with other collaborators. but never more affecting than with TOPLEY-BIRD on this record who holds her own and is arguably the star of the record.
when i got into TRICKY in the early 2000s it was an aural journey of self-discovery that really made me rethink the inherent value of musical concepts like genre or audience expectation. his records were experiences into a headspace of someone who was lost but always searching, always on the hunt for the truth. he is one of my favorite artists and arguably MAXINQUAYE is his finest moment.
i cannot recommend this record more empathically. it is most definitely worth revisiting and checking out.