Geoff Barrow Talks Portishead's Hip Hop Influence

After being sampled by the likes of Wu-Tang Clan, Timbaland and Joe Budden, Portishead's Geoff Barrow says the Hip Hop love is mutual.

Before cross-genre mash-ups started becoming the thing to do producers such as RZA (“Kiss Of The Black Widow) and Mr. Walt (Heltah Skeltah’s “Prowl”) were sampling the British group, Portishead. For many, the combination of Geoff Barrow’s basslines and turntable skills along with Beth Gibbons’ vocals made for an enjoyable listen whether they wanted to see how Portishead was sampled or just listen to the original works. In a recent interview with the Village Voice, Barrow points to his origins as a reason why that may not have been a coincidence.

“Hip Hop is kind of my punk, really,” Barrow explained. He moved to the turntables and drum sequencers after initially being drawn to Hip Hop culture as a B-Boy in his native, urban fishing town of Portishead. “When you’re younger, and you’re putting music together, it can be a bit of a cockfight with other bands—the kids who got all the trainers and the right MPC. But RZA sampled me, so fuck off.”

In addition to explaining the reason for his short-lived Hip Hop remixing phase, Barrow revealed that he didn’t get a pair of Technics turntables and a proper sampler until after Portishead got a record deal. Barrow also gives some very candid opinions on scratching as a form of musicianship versus producers that only focus on the technical aspects.

And while Portishead’s latest long-player, Third, was a departure from the sound that got them labeled as a “Trip Hop” band, Barrow is still working on some Hip Hop related projects. He recently produced the Quite Nyce single, “Jobless” and he’s working on the upcoming “Quakers” project with Fraser Stuart, Katalyst and about 35 other emcees. For the full profile, visit the Village Voice’s site.

RELATED: Quite Nyce’s “Jobless [prod. by Geoff Barrow of Portishead]”


  • andre

    Dummy is, musically, fundamentally a hip-hop album. Beats, samples, scratching - it has everything except rapping. What always surprised me is how long American hip-hop artists slept on this classic. DangerMouse and Kanye both name-checked Portishead as an influence on their production a decade after its release. Better late than never though. And let's face it, that caliber of art would never register on the radar of someone like . . . I dunno . . . Waka Flame or Soulja Boy. What's really interesting is how it all came full-circle: all the Bristol trip-hop artists (Massive Attack; Tricky; Portishead) were heavily influenced by classic, sample-based (mostly) NY hip-hop. Turn the clock forward a decade+ and American hip-hop is acknowledging those Bristol artists in their productions.

  • Anonymous

    geoff barrow is the man! top 5 producers in my lifetime

  • Brandon Hamm

    Fucking BRILLIANT band. Seriously. If you haven't heard of them, check them out.

  • Jahbari ElementzEmcee Townsend

    Portishead is dope!! Their album "Dummy" is a classic IMO.

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