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Tricky - Maxinquaye.jpg
Studio album by Tricky
Released 20 February 1995 (1995-02-20)
Recorded 1994
Studio Tricky's home studio, Loveshack Studios, and Eastcote Studios in London
Genre Trip hop
Length 57:13
Label 4th & B'way
Producer Howie B, Kevin Petrie, Mark Saunders, Tricky
Tricky chronology
Nearly God

Maxinquaye is the debut album by English recording artist and producer Tricky. He recorded the album with his then-girlfriend, vocalist Martina Topley-Bird, who sang on most of the songs with him. Tricky produced the album mostly himself at his home studio in London, with the assistance of co-producer Mark Saunders.

When Maxinquaye was released on 20 February 1995 by 4th & B'way Records, it reached number three on the UK Albums Chart and received widespread acclaim from critics, many of whom hailed it as the year's best record. It was also viewed as the key album of a musical style that was being dubbed trip hop, a term Tricky himself disliked. Since then, Maxinquaye has been ranked frequently on all-time lists of the greatest albums and has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide.


After a troubled upbringing in the Knowle West neighborhood of Bristol, Tricky became involved with an eclectic collective of DJs and musicians known as The Wild Bunch during the late 1980s.[1] As part of the collective, he helped arrange sound systems around Bristol's club scene and penned raps under a stage name derived from "Tricky Kid", which was the nickname given to him in a street gang as a youth.[2] The Wild Bunch signed a record deal with 4th & B'way Records and released two singles but failed to make a commercial impact because of what label director Julian Palmer felt was a sound too experimental and slow for most listeners. The collective dissolved in 1989,[3] but would eventually lead to the formation of the trip hop group Massive Attack, with Tricky a frequent collaborator.[4]

In September 1993, Tricky released "Aftermath" independently to local record stores before he signed a record deal with 4th & Broadway.[3] That year, Tricky discovered Martina Topley-Bird, then a teenager at Clifton College, when he saw her sitting on a wall near his house, singing to herself.[5] "That's really how it happened," she recalled. "It's one of those things people are always surprised to find out is true. I remember the graveyard behind the wall. A few weeks later, I went around to his house with some friends. We'd been drinking cider after our GCSEs. We were banging on his door, but he wasn't in. Then Mark Stewart, who lived there, came up to us and said: "Yeah, this is Tricky's house, jump in through the window." Tricky and Topley-Bird would form a musical and romantic partnership over subsequent years.[6]

Recording and production[edit]

Tricky chose Mark Saunders as co-producer of Maxinquaye due to his previous work with The Cure on the albums Wish and Mixed Up, and they recorded the album in the first half of 1994 at Tricky's home studio, with later work done at the Loveshack and Eastcote studios in Notting Hill, London.[7]

The sessions for Maxinquaye were somewhat chaotic, and Saunders, who had the impression that he would serve as an engineer, frequently found himself serving as a DJ and programmer. Tricky frequently instructed him on what to sample, regardless of different tempos and pitches, and asked him to piece the result together, something Saunders achieved by pitch-shifting the respective samples.[8] Additionally, almost all of Topley-Bird's vocals on the album were recorded in a single take. In describing the recording sessions, she recalled, "It was totally instinctive. There was no time to drum up an alter ego."[6] The liner notes credited Tricky and Topley-Bird for vocals on all songs except "Pumpkin" and "You Don't", which Tricky sang with Alison Goldfrapp and Ragga, respectively.[9]

Various contributors were occasionally called in to play instruments for Maxinquaye, including guitarist James Stevenson, bassist Pete Briquette, and the band FTV (on "Black Steel"). The producer Saunders contributed guitar himself, with the resulting improvisations treated as samples.[7] According to American critic Robert Christgau, Maxinquaye‍ '​s groove-oriented and low-tempo music drew on lo-fi, dub, ambient techno, and hip hop sounds,[10] while James Hunter from Rolling Stone said Tricky subsumed American hip hop, soul, reggae, and 1980s English rock sounds into "a mercurial style of dance music".[11]


After Tricky was signed, 4th & Broadway reissued "Aftermath" in January 1994 and released "Ponderosa" in April.[12] The following year, three more singles were released—"Overcome" in January, "Black Steel" in March, and "Pumpkin" in November. The label also released a four-track EP entitled The Hell E.P. in July, which featured "Hell Is Round the Corner" and reached number 12 on the UK Singles Chart.[13]

Although hip hop records in the United Kingdom had received exposure through dance music dealers and press, 4th & Broadway relied on independent record promoters and Tricky's cover story in NME to promote Maxinquaye. According to the label's director Julian Palmer, the UK's demographic of young music buyers such as students was more progressive than in the United States, where he said the album would have to be marketed differently. Palmer believed that much like Portishead, a contemporary trip hop act, Tricky would have received airplay in the US on alternative or college rock radio: "Some people I've met were confused because he's black, and it's not easy to break through those barriers there."[3]

A printing error mistakenly credited the then-unknown Topley-Bird as "Martine". Of her role on the album, she later said "I liked the idea that the information people needed about me was what they would hear when they put the record on. Anything else was sort of extraneous. I didn't think there was anything in my biography that would explain my musical choices."[6]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[14]
Christgau's Record Guide A+[15]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5/5 stars[16]
Entertainment Weekly A[17]
The Observer 5/5 stars[18]
Q 5/5 stars[19]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[11]
Slant Magazine 4.5/5 stars[20]
Spin 8/10[21]
The Village Voice A[22]

Maxinquaye was released on 20 February 1995 by 4th & Broadway and received widespread critical acclaim.[3] According to English writer Colin Larkin, the record was hailed by critics as the pivotal release in what they were calling "trip hop" music, along with Massive Attack's 1991 album Blue Lines,[23] although Tricky himself disliked the term.[24] In The Village Voice, Christgau praised the songs as spectacular aural displays of "someone who's signed on to work for the wages of sin and lived to cash the check". He deemed the record dystopian, highlighted by Topley-Bird's singing, and a culmination of the Black British dance music of trip hop's roots, from Soul II Soul and Massive Attack "to a bad place you should take a chance and visit: Depressive, constricted, phantasmagoric, industrial, yet warmly beatwise and swathed in a gauzy glow that promises untold creature comforts".[22]

At the end of 1995, Maxinquaye was named the year's best record in year-end polls by numerous English publications, including NME and Melody Maker, and finished second in the voting for The Village Voice‍ '​s Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of American critics.[25] The album also received a nomination for the Mercury Prize, an annual music award given to the best record from the UK and Ireland. It was later ranked high in Q magazine's list of the 100 greatest British albums, Mojo‍ '​s "100 Modern Classics", and Rolling Stone‍ '​s "Essential Recordings of the 90s", among other lists.[26] In 2013, NME named Maxinquaye the 202nd best album of all time.[27] According to Acclaimed Music, it is the 170th most ranked record on critics' all-time lists.[28]

In Maxinquaye‍ '​s first few months of release, it sold over 100,000 copies in the UK, despite no significant radio airplay.[29] The record charted for 35 weeks and peaked at number 3 on the UK Albums Chart.[30] After it was released in the US on April 18, Tricky toured the country as a supporting act for fellow English recording artist PJ Harvey.[31] According to Nielsen SoundScan, the album had sold 222,000 copies in the US by 2003.[32] By 2012, it had sold over 500,000 copies worldwide. That same year, Tricky performed the entire album with Topley-Bird on April 27 at the Sundance London festival, which was their first onstage appearance together in 15 years.[26]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Samples[citation needed] Length
1. "Overcome"   Adrian Thaws, Siobhan Fahey, Marcella Levy "Moonchild" (Shakespears Sister) 4:30
2. "Ponderosa"   Thaws, Howard Bernstein "O Maa Tujhe Salaam" (Jagjit Singh), "Midnight Theme" (Manzel) 3:31
3. "Black Steel"   James Boxley, William Drayton, Carlton Ridenhour, Eric Sadler "Rukkumani Rukkuman" (A. R. Rahman) 5:40
4. "Hell Is Round the Corner"   Thaws, Isaac Hayes "Ike's Rap II" (Isaac Hayes) 3:47
5. "Pumpkin"   Thaws, Alison Goldfrapp "Suffer" (The Smashing Pumpkins) 4:31
6. "Aftermath"   Thaws "That's the Way Love Is" (Marvin Gaye), "Eat 'Em Up L Chill" (LL Cool J), "How Can I Be Sure" (The Young Rascals), "Let me tell you about my mother..." (Blade Runner), "Ghosts" (Japan) 7:39
7. "Abbaon Fat Tracks"   Thaws, Mark Saunders   4:27
8. "Brand New You're Retro"   Thaws "Bad" (Michael Jackson), "Mind Terrorist" (Public Enemy) 2:54
9. "Suffocated Love"   Thaws, Richard Barrett "Look in My Eyes" (The Chantels) 4:53
10. "You Don't"   Thaws   4:39
11. "Strugglin'"   Thaws   6:39
12. "Feed Me"   Thaws "Sound of Da Police" (KRS-One) 4:04


Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.[9]


Chart (1995) Peak
Australian Albums Chart[33] 48
Belgian Albums Chart (Flanders)[33] 29
Belgian Albums Chart (Wallonia)[33] 42
Dutch Albums Chart[33] 64
German Albums Chart[33] 76
New Zealand Albums Chart[33] 23
Swedish Albums Chart[33] 18
UK Albums Chart[30] 3


  1. ^ Shields 2003, p. 1101; Pride 1995, p. 80.
  2. ^ Strong 2006, p. 1118; Shields 2003, p. 1101.
  3. ^ a b c d Pride 1995, p. 80.
  4. ^ Erlewine n.d.(a).
  5. ^ Fox 2010, p. 5.
  6. ^ a b c Lynskey 2012.
  7. ^ a b Buskin 2007.
  8. ^ Buskin 2007; Byers 2008.
  9. ^ a b Anon. (1995). Maxinquaye (CD liner notes). Tricky. Island Records, 4th & B'way Records. BRCD 610 / 524 089-2. 
  10. ^ Christgau 1995a.
  11. ^ a b Hunter 1995, p. 83.
  12. ^ Pride 1995, p. 80; Strong 2006, p. 1119.
  13. ^ Strong 2006, p. 1119.
  14. ^ Erlewine n.d.(b).
  15. ^ Christgau 2000, pp. 314-15.
  16. ^ Larkin 2011, p. 3535.
  17. ^ Browne 1995, p. 56.
  18. ^ Savage 2009.
  19. ^ Anon. n.d.(a).
  20. ^ Cinquemani 2002.
  21. ^ Walters 1995, p. 99.
  22. ^ a b Christgau 1995b.
  23. ^ Larkin 2011, p. 1207.
  24. ^ Cohen & Krugman 1996.
  25. ^ Erlewine n.d.(a); Anon. 1996.
  26. ^ a b Anon. 2012.
  27. ^ Kaye 2013.
  28. ^ Anon. n.d.(b).
  29. ^ Pride 1995, p. 80; Erlewine n.d.(a).
  30. ^ a b Anon. n.d.(c).
  31. ^ Flick 1995, p. 49.
  32. ^ Paoletta 2003, p. 41.
  33. ^ a b c d e f g Anon. n.d.(d).


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]