Local Wire

Massive Attack

Massive Attack's Robert del Naja, a.k.a. 3D, was initially known not as a musician, but as a teenage graffiti artist — yet his connection to Bristol's underground naturally attracted him to the Wild Bunch, a DJ-driven sound system that paid homage to the Jamaican party-givers whose impromptu toasts helped birth hip-hop. When the system shut down toward the end of the '80s, Grant "Daddy G" Marshall and fellow Wildmen Andrew Vowles (better known as Mushroom) and Nellee Hooper, of Soul II Soul fame, hooked up with del Naja to form Massive Attack. Together with ancillary associates such as rapper/growler Adrian Thaws, who goes by Tricky, and Shara Nelson, a remarkably evocative vocalist, the crew crafted 1991's Blue Lines, the rare disc that invented its own genre. "Safe From Harm," which kicks off Lines, merged soul, funk, hip-hop and electronic music in such a dark, atmospheric and compelling way that performers are ripping it off to this day. Eight albums into its career, Massive Attack's been pared down to just 3D and Daddy G, but word is, the duo's live shows are filled out with two drummers and additional vocalists — because when it comes to Massive Attack's richly layered, electro-hybrid music, less is never more. Only more is more.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently oversees Westword's news blog.
Contact: Michael Roberts