In a 1998 feature for The New York Times, Guy Garcia posited Blue Lines as the blueprint for trip-hop, an argument that holds some weight if you consider that parts of the album were as old as the days of The Wild Bunch, from which the trio emerged. Whether or not you consider it trip-hop is at this point in time purely a matter of personal beliefs and largely irrelevant considering its legacy. In 2009, Daddy G told The Observer: “What we were trying to do was create dance music for the head, rather than the feet.” A statement of intent for trip-hop if there ever was one.
DJ Shadow’s first album for Mo’ Wax is the kind of debut that places the bar so high in its mastery of a new musical vocabulary that even its creator can never hope to better it, forever living beneath the weight of what he’s accomplished. Endtroducing is the lingua franca of trip-hop, an album crafted by a hip-hop fanatic outside of any direct sphere of influence but his own. Like all of the releases on this list, to define Endtroducing as trip-hop is to limit it, to take away the transformative powers it had to imbue listeners with a new understanding of the potentials of hip-hop as an instrumental music. It’s not just the music that made hip-hop suck in 1996, it was also the critics who couldn’t conceive that albums like Endtroducing were what they claimed to be and nothing more.