3D & The Art of Massive Attack

There has long been talk of a book capturing the visual legacy of Massive Attack’s 3D. I think that it was originally planned for release in 2013 but as is so often the way with things from Bristol, the date slipped past with nothing to seen. Occasionally word would filter out of progress being made, layouts being finalised, then changed again, yet no firm news of a release. So it was something of a surprise to enter Rise Records in Bristol this morning and see the book on display.

Long before Robert Del Naja, found fame with Massive Attack, his alter ego 3D was attracting attention for his work on the walls of Bristol. One of the first Bristolian’s to be inspired by the DIY ethos of the emerging graffiti scene from the USA; 3D took his burgeoning talent to the streets of the city. This hefty book charts his development from those early days of spray paint to the multi media visual world that he has created for Massive Attack, both in terms of their live work and on the recordings that they release.

There is a separate supplement, which includes an illuminating interview with Robert by Sean Bidder. The dots are clearly joined for us as punk bands Stiff Little Fingers and The Clash lead Robert directly to rap and hip-hop, forms of music both sharing a directness of musical approach and visual identity that any punk fan could relate to. This was something that could be created quickly and organically. You didn’t need years of training, be it musical or artistic. YOU have an idea; YOU make it happen, there and then.

As 3D, Robert was a founder member of the Wild Bunch. The book covers the interlocking worlds of music and art as Wild Bunch dissolved and then from the ashes Massive Attack emerge. Sometimes Massive Attack were the only outlet for his artistic talents, on other occasions friends coaxed him into other work, all the while a strong visual identity is on show.

The book is a fascinating part of social history, charting the changing world of street art from brushes with the law, to being part of the art establishment. The timing of the book is excellent as on 19 July the Arnolfini in Bristol is hosting an event celebrating the 30th anniversary of an exhibition that they staged called simply, Graffiti Art in Bristol. 3D and the Wild Bunch were part of that event; apparently the first international graffiti show outside of New York.

For a wider look at the street art scene that 3D instigated in Bristol, I would also recommend “Children of the can: 25 Years of Bristol Graffiti” by Felix Braun.

To get you in the mind set of those Wild Bunch jams that were part of those early days, grab yourself a copy of “The Wild Bunch: Story of a Sound System, mixed by Dj Milo”