Tricky (born Adrian Thaws 27 January, 1968) is an English musician. He is noted for a whispering lyrical style that is half-rapped, half-sung. As a producer and a musician, he is noted for a dark, rich and layered sound. Culturally, Tricky bridges white and black England, particularly in his fusion of rock and hip hop, high art and pop culture. His debut album Maxinquaye was nominated for the Mercury Prize and voted Album of the Year by NME Magazine.
Tricky was born in Knowle West, Bristol, England. His father left the family before he was born and his mother, Maxine Quaye, committed suicide when he was four. He named his solo album after her - Maxinquaye - and once said that though he hardly knew her, he feels like she's speaking through him with his words.
Tricky's family includes a great diversity of ethnic backgrounds, including English, Jamaican, Spanish, and many others. He cites that his family is incredibly varied in appearance, one cousin white, one seemingly Asian, one very dark-skinned and looking mostly of African heritage (Melody Maker Jan. 11, 2007).
He spent his youth with his grandmother, who often let him watch old horror movies instead of going to school. At 15 he began to write lyrics ("I like to rock, I like to dance, I like pretty girls taking down their pants" MixMag '96), though not with the ambiguity and tricky-ness that showed up later on his albums. At 17, he spent some time in prison because he bought forged £50 notes from a friend, who later informed the police. In an interview, Tricky said: "Prison was really good. I'm never going back" (NME '95).
Eventually he met DJ Milo and hung out with a sound system called The Wild Bunch, which by 1987 evolved into Massive Attack. He received the nickname 'Tricky Kid' and at 18 he became a member of the Fresh 4, a rap group built from The Wild Bunch. He also rapped on Massive Attack's acclaimed debut album Blue Lines (1991). But as soon as making music turned into a business he didn't like it anymore. Though Tricky also appeared on Massive Attack's next album, Protection, he never had the feeling of being a part of the band and never really enjoyed it.
In 1991, before the release of Massive Attack's album Blue Lines, he met Martina Topley-Bird. Some time later she came to his house, and mentioned to Tricky and Mark Stewart that she could sing. Martina was only fifteen years old, but her 'honey-coated vox' impressed them and they recorded a song called "Aftermath" (though The Face '95 mentions that the first song they recorded together was called "Shoebox"). Tricky showed "Aftermath" to Massive Attack, but they weren't interested. So in 1993 he decided to press a few hundred vinyl copies of the song. He cut it directly off of the tape, so that the song is basically "just bassline and hiss". (NME '94). Finally, a white label got him a contract with Island Records and he started to record his first solo album.
Tricky failed to complete a number of lyrics for the Massive Attack album Protection and gave the band some of the lyrics he had written for Maxinquaye instead. When Massive Attack was asked about why the lyrics were the same in a Radio interview on CFNY (Toronto) they jokingly said that it was because he was lazy. Different versions of the same songs appear on both albums - called "Overcome" and "Hell is 'Round the Corner" on Maxinquaye and "Karmacoma" and "Eurochild" on Protection.
Tricky found it difficult to cope with the huge success of Maxinquaye and he subsequently eschewed the laidback soul sound of the first album to create an increasingly edgy and aggressive punk tinged music that echoed his personality as he became more erratic and unreliable.
He has also been concerned with racial stereotyping of the media. In the documentary Naked & Famous he explains how photographers want him to frown angrily in photos, because that's how black artists are marketed. He points to a recent cover of The Big Issue, where he has a more ambiguous, confused look on his face, as being more how he feels. In the song "Tricky Kid" from Pre-Millennium Tension, he writes "As long as you're humble/Let you be the king of jungle."
Throughout his work, Tricky blurs the normally clear sexual definitions found within hip hop. Despite the heavy influence he drew from American hip hop in his debut album, Maxinquaye, he fights against typical sexual representations by, for example, dressing as a woman on the side sleeve of his album cover. Within many of his tracks he blends elements of varying types of music, and use his lyrics to create a much more ambiguous and blurry reality of sexuality.
Tricky has also acted in various films. He appeared in a significant supporting role in the 1997 Luc Besson film The Fifth Element, playing the right-hand man Michael to evil businessman Mr. Zorg. He reportedly put off actor Gary Oldman (who played Zorg) because, while he had his back to the camera, he was eating a Twix bar, to Oldman's anger ("He's facking eatin' a Twix!") He also appears briefly in both the 1997 John Woo directed Face/Off (his single "Christiansands" is also played during his brief cameo) as well as the 2004 Olivier Assayas film Clean, playing himself, and had a large role in the music video for "Parabol/Parabola" by Tool.
In 2001 Tricky appeared in online advertising for the webisodal show We Deliver, about a marijuana delivery service in NYC. Though he didn't actually appear in any episodes, in the advertising it appears as if he's a customer of the service.
In October 2006, soundgenerator.com reported that Tricky would release a new album in 2007. The February 2008 issue of music magazine MOJO reported that Tricky's new album would be released in April 2008, but it was not.
Titled, Knowle West Boy, it was reported to chronicle his upbringing on a tough Bristol council estate. It was released in the U.K. and Ireland on July 7, 2008 (September 9th, 2008 in the U.S.), with the first single, Council Estate having come out; June 30.
A Web site promoting the new album, knowlewestboy.com, is now online and features audio and video samples.
Speaking in an interview with The Skinny in July 2008, Tricky suggested that the album's release was delayed by Bernard Butler, who allegedly demanded a co-producer credit on the album after contributing to recording sessions which were ultimately discarded by Tricky.
|Hell is Around the Corner||12|
|"Makes Me Wanna Die"||29|
|1998||"Money Greedy" / "Broken Homes"||25||Angels with Dirty Faces|
|2000||Mission Accomplished EP||-||-|
|2001||"Evolution Revolution Love"||-||Blowback|
|2002||"You Don't Wanna"||-|
|2008||"Council Estate"||-||Knowle West Boy|