In 1990, hip-hop was steadily winding its way into the mainstream, and aside from a handful of hardcore acts (Public Enemy, NWA), the genre was splitting into two camps-- creatively bankrupt pop-rap like Hammer and Kid N' Play, or softer, accessible edutainment like Tribe, LL and Brand Nubian-- neither of which were too appealing to those with subversive leanings. Needless to say, it was time for the Brits to bring some much-needed fog and terror. The first lines of "Safe from Harm" were like a smooth kick to the velveted head: "Midnight rockers/ City slickers/ Gunmen and maniacs"-- and this was one of the romantic songs! Massive Attack's amalgamation of vintage dub, ambient starkness, hip-hop beats, siren divas, and drawling, purring raps was the sound of the street, whether you were in an embrace in the park or a gunfight in the alley.
3D, Daddy G, and Mushroom packed all the talent of Bristol (including reggae superstar Horace Andy and a young anti-go-getter then known as Tricky Kid) into a cellar and drew up smoke. 3D and Daddy G invented stoned insouciance a year and a half before Snoop would debut on Dre's The Chronic, tossing off smooth antinomies and meandering stories at a slug's pace. And when they were conjoined to earthy strings, minimalist samples, and Shara Nelson's voice, it incontestably changed the world's perception of the resonance of rap.