Coming out of collaboration with Massive Attack, Tricky was clearly bursting with ideas of his own. On Maxinquaye he sticks to a trip-hop bluieprint, ironically nicking Karma Coma's lyrics for the brooding 'Overcomes' and even sampling Portishead's 'Glory Box' - one of the classic triphop songs - on 'Hell Is Round The Corner'. Yet he infuses the sound with a dark, understated urban menace and with singer Martina Topley-Bird he creates sweltering, sexy grooves that sometimes, as on 'Abbaon Fat Tracks', descend into pure erotica. She has a sultry, alternative voice which complements his laidback rapping style very well, both of them sounding very British. Its an intriguing combination though its a shame that he doesnt take the mic and go solo more often. His only real freestyle rap comes on the almost old-skool hip-hop of 'Brand New You're Retro'.
Occasionally as on 'Strugglin' they wander astray without a tune and it makes for a somewhat routine track, acceptable as a 2-minute filler but unbearable stretched into 6 and 1/2 minutes. Yet there's more than enough to make up for it: the masterpiece of paraonoia that is an inspired cover of 'Black Steel', Topley-Bird's voice awash in aggressive guitars and gritty production. Her voice is an acquired taste, especially on tracks like 'Ponderosa' where her sound is totally Estuary, but its nicely broken up by the lush 'Pumpkin' which takes the ingenious tactic of marrying a Massive Attack-style backing track to Orbital (and, after this album, Goldfrapp) vocalist Alison Goldfrapp and a brooding Smashing Pumpkins sample. Also, when the tracks are as good as 'You Don't' which is reggae-tinged and almost like the Horace Andy tracks on 'Blue Lines' its churlish to complain.
Ultimately, Maxinquaye is not only a trip-hop masterpiece but an urban classic. Highly reccomended to fans of not just triphop but those new to the genre or mainstream hip-hop fans.