Cobalt Magazine Presents: The Genre Guide

Genre Breakdown: Trip Hop

If musical genres were a family, trip hop would be the uncle that shows up to family reunions and stands in the corner while everyone else ignores him.  But if you would just talk to Uncle Trip Hop, you’d realize he’s actually a pretty interesting guy.  Maybe this won’t convince you to give YOUR uncle a second chance, but hopefully it will persuade you to give trip hop one.

Mildly ambiguous name aside- trip hop is essentially experimental down-tempo electronic music that combines a multitude of genres.  It’s a little difficult to define, because it’s basically all the abnormalities you find in electronic-based music. Artists whom make it almost never exclusively perform the genre; they tend to represent a different one, such as ambient or electronica, and test with trip hop on only a few tracks. After all, it is experimental.



While there isn’t a particular artist responsible for trip hop’s start, the United Kingdom, (specifically Bristol), is considered the birthplace of the genre. It was first heard in the 1980’s, but trip hop gained its most notoriety in the 90’s.


Telltale Signs

Unfortunately, the easiest way to tell if you are listening to trip hop is by listening to a large variety of the particular artist’s work.  It’s time consuming, but you can compare what you think their typical sound is to the deviations they might have lurking within the tracks.

You are more likely to discover trip hop music within other electronic sub-genres such as: dance, house, dub, ambient, industrial, and electronica.

A slower, spacy sound can be a dead give away for trip hop, too.

What it all boils down to is if it doesn’t sound like it belongs to the artist who recorded it, the genre the artist is usually associated with, or like the rest of the album it is on, you’ve more than likely stumbled across trip hop.


Often Confused For

If you don’t spend a lot of time listening to electronic music, trip hop can be a rather confusing genre- simply because so much of trip hop is defined by the things it’s not, rather than the things it is.  To better understand trip hop, the safest bet is to become familiar with similar genres so you know what it doesn’t sound like. Exposure is the key to understanding in this genre-bender of a category.


Notable Acts

These artists have been known to have trip hop influences in their music.



Frou Frou

Little Dragon


Thievery Cooperation


Check out some trip hop tracks.

Portishead- Glory Box

Kasabian- Running Battle

Massive Attack- Unfinished Symphony

Björk- Venus As A Boy


-Abbey Maynard


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