Most pop memoirs hurry past childhood to the glory years, but Hell Is Round the Corner puts Tricky’s extended clan stage centre; a patchwork of great grandparents, half-siblings, second cousins and scary uncles centred on Knowle West, a 1930s Bristol council estate known for criminality and violence. Tricky describes it as “a white ghetto”, though his own family contained every shade of skin. The young Tricky – plain Adrian Thaws until celebrity arrived – found himself shuttled between relatives, beaten by his step-grandfather and mentored by gangster uncles. One uncle, blaming his sister’s suicide on her husband, was only prevented from “getting” Tricky’s father by the seven-year stretch he was serving in Dartmoor.... Although it is bookended by tragedy, and shot through with the violence and abuse of his early life, Hell Is Round the Corner proves an ultimately uplifting read, the testament of a fierce, funny and seemingly indomitable spirit.
Hell is Round the Corner is presented as a series of interviews, with Tricky but also with friends and relations, because “I had years of smoking weed, doing all kinds of drugs… sometimes it’s more reliable someone else saying it”. Starting with the suicide of his mother and ending with the suicide of his youngest daughter earlier this year, the book is a sterling stoic lesson in swerving the profoundly unattractive trait of self-pity – the opiate of the famous – as well as an insight into a singular artist. When Tricky was a teenager his friends told him he was an enigma – “at the time, I didn’t even know what the word meant” – and he is still a mystery. At a time when music is dominated by the dreary spawn of the bourgeoisie, we will never see his like again.