Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, the term "trip-hop" was coined in 1989,
 though it first appeared in print in June 1994; Andy Pemberton, a music journalist writing for
Mixmag, used it to describe Mo Wax Records Artist (U.K.) RPM and (American)
DJ Shadow's "In/Flux" single.
In Bristol, once one of the most important ports in the Atlantic slave-trade and as of 2012MCs,
graffiti artists grouped together into informal
soundsystems. Like the pioneering Bronx crews of DJs Kool Herc, Afrika Bambataa and Grandmaster Flash, the soundsystems provided party music for public spaces, often in the economically deprived
council estates from which some of their members originated. Bristol's soundsystem DJs, drawing heavily on
Jamaican dub music, typically used a laid-back, slow and heavy drum
beat ("down tempo").
among Britain's most racially diverse cities, hip hop began to seep into the consciousness of a subculture already well-schooled in Jamaican forms of music. DJs,
Wild Bunch crew became one of the soundsystems to put a local spin on the international phenomenon, helping to birth Bristol's signature sound of trip hop, often termed "the Bristol Sound". The Wild Bunch and its associates included at various times in its existence the
MC Adrian "Tricky Kid" Thaws, the graffiti artist and lyricist
Robert "3D" Del Naja, producer
Jonny Dollar and the DJs
Nellee Hooper, Andrew "Mushroom" Vowles and Grant "Daddy G" Marshall. As the hip hop scene matured in Bristol and musical trends evolved further toward
acid jazz and
house in the late 1980s, the golden era of the soundsystem began to end. The Wild Bunch signed a record deal and evolved into
Massive Attack, a core collective of 3D, Mushroom and
Daddy G, with significant contributions from Tricky Kid (soon shortened to
Dollar and Hooper on production duties, along with a rotating cast of other vocalists.
Another influence came from
Tackhead soundsystem. Clail often worked with former
The Pop Group singer
Mark Stewart. The latter experimented with his band
Mark Stewart & the Maffia, which consisted of New York
Doug Wimbish, and
Keith LeBlanc, who had been a part of the house band for the
 Produced by
Adrian Sherwood, the music combined hiphop with experimental rock and dub and sounded like a premature version of what later became trip hop. In 1993,
Kirsty MacColl released "Angel", one of the first examples of the genre crossing over to pop, a hybrid that dominated the charts toward the end of the 1990s.
Early to mid-1990s: Trip hop's mainstream breakthrough
, a British trip hop group that helped bring the genre to mainstream success in the 1990s
Massive Attack's first album
Blue Lines was released in 1991 to huge success in the UK. Blue Lines was seen widely as the first major manifestation of a uniquely British hip hop movement, but the album's hit single "Unfinished Sympathy" and several other tracks, while their rhythms were largely sample-based, were not seen as hip hop songs in any conventional sense. Produced by
Shara Nelson (an R&B singer) featured on the orchestral "Unfinished", and Jamaican dance hall star
Horace Andy provided vocals on several other tracks, as he would throughout Massive Attack's career. Massive Attack released their second album entitled
Protection in 1994. Although Tricky stayed on in a lesser role, and Hooper again produced, the fertile dance music scene of the early 1990s had informed the record, and it was seen as an even more significant shift away from the Wild Bunch era.
In the June 1994 issue of UK magazine
Mixmag, music journalist Andy Pemberton used the term trip hop to describe the hip hop
In/Flux", a 1993 single by San Francisco's
DJ Shadow, and other similar tracks released on the
label and being played in London clubs at the time. "In/Flux", with its mixed up
samples, strings, melodies, bizarre noises, prominent bass, and slow beats, gave the listener the impression they were on a musical
trip, according to Pemberton.
 Soon, however, Massive Attack's dubby, jazzy, psychedelic, electronic textures, rooted in hip hop sampling technique but taking flight into many styles, were described by journalists as the template of the eponymous genre.
, a major trip hop artist
In 1993, Icelandic musician
Debut, produced by Wild Bunch member Nellee Hooper. The album, although rooted in
house music, contained elements of trip hop and is credited as one of the first albums to introduce electronic dance music into mainstream pop.
 She had been in contact with London's underground electronic music scene and was romantically involved with trip hop musician Tricky. Björk embraced trip hop even more with her 1995 album
Post by collaborating with Tricky and Howie B.
Homogenic, her 1997 album, has been described as a pinnacle of trip hop music.
1994 and 1995 saw trip hop near the peak of its popularity, with artists such as
Naked Funk and
Earthling making significant contributions.
Ninja Tune, the
independent record label founded by the
Coldcut duo, would significantly influence the trip-hop sound in London and beyond with breakthrough artists
9 Lazy 9,
Up, Bustle & Out,
Funki Porcini and
The Herbaliser, among others. The period also marked the debut of two acts who, along with Massive Attack, would define the Bristol scene for years to come.
Portishead, a trio comprising singer
Beth Gibbons, Geoff Barrow, and Adrian Utley, released their debut album
Dummy. Their background differed from Massive Attack in many ways: one of Portishead's primary influences was 1960s and 1970s film soundtrack LPs. Nevertheless, Portishead shared the scratchy, jazz-sample-based aesthetic of early Massive Attack (whom Barrow had briefly worked with during the recording of Blue Lines), and the sullen, fragile vocals of Gibbons also brought them wide acclaim. In 1995, Dummy was awarded the
Mercury Music Prize as the best British album of the year, giving trip-hop as a genre its greatest exposure yet. Portishead's music, seen as cutting edge in its film-noir feel and stylish, yet emotional appropriations of past sounds, was also widely imitated, causing the band to recoil from the trip-hop label they had inadvertently helped popularize.
Tricky also released his debut solo album
Maxinquaye in 1995, to great critical acclaim. The album was produced largely in collaboration with
Mark Saunders. Tricky employed whispered, often abstract stream-of-consciousness murmuring, remote from the gangsta-rap
braggadocio of the mid-1990s US hip hop scene. Even more unusually, however, many of the solo songs on Maxinquaye featured little of Tricky's own voice: his then-lover,
Martina Topley-Bird, sang them, including her reimagining of
Public Enemy's militant 1988 rap "
Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos", while other songs were male-female duets dealing with sex and love in oblique ways, over beds of sometimes dissonant samples. Within a year Tricky had released two more full-length albums which were considered even more challenging, without finding the same popularity as his Bristol contemporaries Massive Attack and Portishead.
 Through his brief collaborations with Björk, however, he also exerted influence closer to the pop and alternative rock mainstream, and he developed a large cult fan-base.
Poe released her 1995 debut
Hello, an album that featured trip-hop elements, to critical praise.
The London-based band
Archive began as trip hop, before developing into
progressive rock, employing elements of both hip hop and
orchestral music with the album Controlling Crowds (
Part I–III and
Although not as popular in the United States, bands like Portishead and Sneaker Pimps saw moderate air play on alternative-rock stations across the country.