Massive Attack is widely credited with having created trip-hop, a trance-like rhythmic blend of hip-hop, deejay sampling, soulful singing, funk, and Jamaican dub music. A club scene alternative to the hyperactive energy of techno in the 1990s, trip-hop became a fixture on film soundtracks and recordings of DJ remixes.

Massive Attack evolved out of a Bristol, England-based group of DJs, rappers, singers, and sound engineers known as the Wild Bunch that functioned primarily to stage dance parties beginning in 1983. The Wild Bunch’s 1986 cover of Burt Bacharach’s "The Look of Love" became a major hit within the European club circuit. Internal disputes and harassment by legal officials led to a breakup of the collective; graffiti artist/vocalist 3-D (Robert Del Naja), vocalist/keyboardist/producer Daddy G (Grant Marshall), and keyboardist/producer Andrew Vowles (better known as Mushroom) emerged out of its ashes to form Massive Attack in 1987.

Generating career momentum from the release of a string of popular club singles, Massive Attack released its debut album, Blue Lines (Virgin 91685; #13 UK) in 1991, featuring a varied array of vocalists, including DJ Tricky, Shara Nelson, and reggae artist Horace Andy. Although the group always viewed dance singles as the ultimate art form (according to discographer Martin Strong, the hypnotic "Unfinished Sympathy" [Circa 2; 1991; #13 UK; mixed by Paul Oakenfold], is often cited as one of the most perfect singles ever crafted), their LPs—Protection (Virgin 3847; 1994; #14 UK), which featured jazz-pop singer Tracey Thorn and Nigerian vocalist Nicolette, among others; No Protection: Massive Attack vs. Mad Professor (Circa/Virgin 3; 1995; #10 UK), a remix of Protection with the assistance of reggae producer, Mad Professor; Mezzanine (Virgin 45599; 1998; #1 UK, #60 US), augmented with vocals by Andy, Cocteau Twins alumnus Elizabeth Fraser, and Sara Jay; and the eleven-CD box set of remixes, Singles 90/98 (Virgin; 1998)—represented important summative statements of past studio experiments.

Massive Attack’s future was somewhat in doubt following Mushroom’s departure in mid-1999. Given public announcements of plan to continue as a duo, combined with the group’s legacy of fruitful collaborations with outside talent, it appeared likely that new releases would eventually be forthcoming.

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