Music Features

Massive Attack's "Blue Lines" Hits Very Differently in 2021

As the album celebrates its 28th birthday today, it takes on a whole new meaning amidst a pandemic.

Massive Attack

In 1988, before Massive Attack even existed, a reporter went to meet a vivacious rap and DJ collective known then as the Wild Bunch, five of whom would soon create Massive Attack.

The braggadocious group described themselves as "originators" and said they had invented a new genre called "minimalist lover's Hip-Hop." "Put that in your magazine. Let's get some f**king respect around here," said one.

The genre would eventually become Trip-Hop, but to revisit Massive Attack's 1991 debut Blue Lines in 2021 is to bask solely in its scaling paranoia. When revisited under the guise of 2021 anxieties, love seems to be more of a fleeting theme on Blue Lines. "Don't need another lover, just need, I'm insecure," 3D stutters on "Daydreaming." A gluey guitar riff and dragging scatter of drums slink behind Horace Andy as he pines for unattainable monogamy on "One Love," purposefully contradicting Bob Marley's communal sense of the word that had become commonplace.

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MUSIC MONDAY | Playlist by Nikki's Wives

APRIL 30 | Perfect to drive at night. Watch their new music video for 'Get Paid'

THE MIX | Chill Vibe and Perfect to Drive

by Nikki's Wives

04.30.18 | "This is a vibey chill playlist that's perfect for driving around at night. My favourite place to think is in my car at night time, so I made this playlist for all my other night owls out there. We've got a mix of some oldies and some new songs too. So check it outtttt." - Nikki

The band just released their newest music video "Get Paid" which focuses on the issue of gun violence. They're donating all revenue from this video to the National Compassion Fund in an effort to do as much as they can to help survivors of such tragedies.

Follow Nikki's Wives on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Was it really that each and every MC brought their "A" Game at last night's collection of rap cyphers at the BET Hip-Hop Awards? Or is it just that any rapper sounds awesome when they're going in over James Brown's "The Payback," as DJ Premier generously looped for the nearly two-dozen MCs? The latter was definitely at least a factor—one of the Godfather of Soul's all-time classic cuts, the 1973 revenge jam is one of the funkiest grooves of its era, a hypnotic assemblage of creeping bass, lightly shuffling drums and some badass f-ckin' wah-wah guitar.

Unsurprisingly, it's also been sampled by everyone and their superbad uncle— lists ten pages' worth (nearly 100 total) of songs that have borrowed from it over the years—especially in the '90s, when DJs and producers apparently decided it was open season on the Brown classic. While you may not have time to listen to all 100 or so, here's five from that golden age of "Payback"-sampling that we think are definitely worth your time.

And if you haven't watched those cyphers from last night yet—good god man (woman), what are you waiting for?


LL Cool J got into the "Payback"-sampling groove with "The Boomin' System," the second single off Mama Said Knock You Out and a top-ten R&B hit in 1990. The song's beat is mostly built around a stitched-together "Payback" guitar hook, taken in part from the song's classic wah-wah intro and the more chopped playing from the song's verse. It's not the best jam from the "I Am Hip-Hop" lifetime achievement award recipient— but along with an early cut from the next group mentioned, it was enough to help mark a trend.


"My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)" was not the first En Vogue song to sample "Payback"—in fact, it wasn't even the first En Vogue song to go to #2 on the pop charts to sample it. That honor would go to "Hold On," released in early 1990, thus making it (in all likelihood) the decade's first hit to borrow from the JB song. Nonetheless, the better of the two was unquestionably 1992's "My Lovin'," which relied heavily on the chop-guitar hook from the "Payback" verse, and along with its monstrously popular Matthew Rolston-directed music video, essentially turned En Vogue into the Supremes of the '90s.


Before Silk topped the charts with "Freak Me," truly the wettest of '90s slow jams, they eased into the R&B charts with 1992 debut single "Happy Days," which would ride the "Payback" opening groove for its four-minute duration. It's an inspired sample, though it's really just about the only super-notable thing about the song—aside from the fact that in the video, each of the group members wear hats that say "SILK" on them, which is either incredibly lame or underratedly ahead of its time.


Arguably the UK trip-hoppers' all-time masterpiece, Massive Attack's "Protection" extricated the "Payback" hook from its spiteful, vengeful roots and instead wove it into a soothing, comforting (though still somewhat chilling) blanket of a pop song. The original's wah-wah guitar never sounded so haunting as it does underneath the gentle coo of guest singer Tracy Thorn (of Everything But the Girl fame), especially in conjunction with the song's oddly touching (and artistically mindblowing) Michel Gondry-directed music video.


Perhaps the "Payback"-sampler that has aged the most pristinely, Total's "Can't You See" was simply one of the great songs of '90s R&B, and possibly the best by a female group not named TLC. The sample has a ton to do with that, matched perfectly by the flashing lights of the song's gorgeously shot video, sultry, dark and mysterious. And oh yeah, it has one of the most under-appreciated Biggie verses ever ("Gimme all the chicken heads from Pasadena to Medina..."), so on fire that then-Puff Daddy has to famously chastize him, "Slow down son, you're killing 'em." Not without reason, either.