Tricky’s career has been tied to labels but he’s unimpressed by most of them – particularly trip-hop, the dark, slow, predominantly British hip hop off-shoot that he apparently helped to create with his work on Massive Attack’s ‘Blue Lines’ and his solo debut ‘Maxinquaye’. “I don’t really know what trip-hop is, I think it’s bollocks to be honest – I don’t listen to it,” he says at the start of our conversation: “People call Morcheeba trip-hop don’t they? Well I’ve never listened to them”. So, instead of telling us his favourite “trip-hop” tracks, Tricky told us ten of his all-time favourites. It’s a selection that has some songs you might expect – like PJ Harvey or the seminal English rap group London Posse – and some you might not – like Paul Simon or Algerian singing prodigy Cheb Anouar – but all are connected to his basic appreciation of atmosphere and authenticity, fine or flawed, in the sounds and words he enjoys most.
- PJ Harvey – 50ft Queenie
Tricky: “This song is incredible, it’s almost like she’s rapping on it or it’s an old blues song. It’s got so much attitude and PJ Harvey is an incredible songwriter.”
- Eric B. & Rakim – My Melody
Tricky: “Rakim took old-school to new-school. Before him rappers were in clubs and that but this was like poetry. This definitely influenced me a lot”
- G-Dep – Child of the Ghetto
Tricky: “This song has incredible lyrics about struggling. I first heard it in New York and thought it was written so well: I wasn’t raised there but you can feel it. If a song doesn’t have good lyrics it doesn’t work as well for me.”
- Paul Simon – 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover
Tricky: “Paul Simon has such a beautiful voice and is a lyrical genius, I love his old sound. I saw him live in LA once at this event backed by these other younger bands on before him. I didn’t really get it at first but he came on with just an acoustic guitar and you could hear a pin drop when he played. Every table was silent”.
- Frank Sinatra – That’s Life
Tricky: “This is a song about all of life’s ups and down and it makes me feel positive. The lyrics “you’re riding high in April, shot down in May” have life down to a tee.”
- London Posse – Gangster Chronicle
Tricky: “London Posse are the best English rappers, a proper English slant on hip-hop when most other UK rappers were still using American accents. I think this is one of the most under-rated albums ever”.
- Cheb Anouar – Lalla Laroussa
Tricky: “This is a song that’s played a lot at Arab weddings. The kid was about 14 when he sang it and, if you believe in angels, this is what an angel would sound like. I’ve never heard any other songs by him but I was going out with a Moroccan girl once and she introduced me to this.”
- UB40 – The Earth Dies Screaming
Tricky: “Proper English reggae: it’s like you can feel the council flats in this. A great song for me when I used to listen to UB40’s older stuff a lot. I think it’s important to make any outside influence your own, add your own spin to it and bring your other influences.”
- Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit
Tricky: “For Billie Holiday to talk about lynching like this at a time when people were being lynched is outrageous and so brave compared to some of the fame-hungry popstars today. I think she’s the best of all time and if I had to choose this would be my favourite song on this list.”
- Bob Marley – Sun is Shining
Tricky: “I’m not really the biggest Bob Marley fan to be honest but he’s one of the best we’ve ever had. I’ve always been more into harder reggae and I don’t listen to him a lot but I appreciate his genius and he had a message that was about trying to make a change. He was about more than just the individual and this song reflects what he was trying to do with his music.”