when hip hop met trip hop...
Two men known for their intense, uncompromising stance of life. Two men whose music has consistently laid it on the line. Last month they met to talk in a London hotel - sex, drungs and "fuck" you" attitude high on the agenda

TEXT Ekow Eshun      PHOTOGRAPHY Jake Chassum

What is there, if anything, that lce-T and Tricky share in common? One is born to the fast, hard life of LA gang culture. A former pimp, drug dealer and burglar turned rapper and movie star, he lives high up in the Hollywood Hills, cosseted by the trappings of wealth. And yet, in the wake of 1992's "Cop Killer" controversy, still remaining one of the most incendiary popular artists performing today. The other has emerged from the often insular Bristol scene with "Maxinquaye", an album that speaks of his own dark obsessions; of paranoia and instability and, in the rapper's own words, his profound sense of "weakness and insecurity".
   But what separates lce-T and Tricky is also what unites them. Because if there is a central theme to the music of both, it is to do with their attempts to define their own particular experience of reality - be it the high-octane ultra-violence of lce-T or the interior psychoses of Tricky. "lce-T is like shoot you in the face sort of thing," says the latter of the former. "I'm like shoot you in the back of the head."
   Early one March morning, two men, previously unacquainted, meet in private in the public space of a hotel. Given that both have made their art out of the spoken word, conversation comes easy. Still, there are unspoken questions hanging in the air between them. Exactly how will two rappers, who know each other by reputation alone, come to agree or differ as artists, individuals, black people, stars and occasional enemies of the system?
   On the day when hip hop met trip hop though, lce-T and Tricky found a common ground between their two worlds, not as personalities, but as people. A connection forged from the stuff that fuels their lives and underscores their music: men, women, sex, drugs, crime and the importance of saying "fuck you" to the world.

Both of you talk about the reality of the streets, but what does that really mean?
ICE-T: To be able to say you're from the street means you had to survive life strictly off the street. The way I ended up on the street: I was living in New Jersey and my mother passed away when I was in the third grade. I was hanging out till one, two in the morning kicking it with the drug dealers and pimps 'cause I knew they had the money, they had the bitches, they had what I wanted. Then I went to California and from 16 I lived on the streets. Since then I've done everything. Burglary, armed robbery, arson for money, kidnapping for ransom, pimping, everything. I was infamous.

TPICKY: My mum died when I was four, so when I was a little kid, I had my uncles to live up to. They used to do protection and things like that, stuff that got on the front page of the paper. I found myself robbing houses and warehouses and selling weed. The first time I robbed a house was when I met this guy at a youth club. He's got an ounce of hash, and loads of money and I'm like, yeah, he's the man. So I start moving with him, next thing I know, I got an ounce of hash and I've got money. That made me feel good. My mum ain't around, my dad ain't around, so this makes me feel good. My posse around me saying, "Yeah, you go and burgle a house with this geezer, you gonna get paid." I was the man! I was the best person at robbing houses.
ICE-T: But there's a definite B-side to crime that you usually don't see. There's a little bit more to it than the kid with the gun. It's like the cars when the kids do drive-bys loaded up with grown men crying. My whole object when I make music is to try to humanise street people. You try to get into the head of the killer or the hustler and the complex paranoia he goes through.
TRICKY: What put me off was coming to a certain stage when me and my mates, we had money, but not like glamorous money, we had Ford Cortinas and things. And then, next thing you know, my house is getting robbed because I've become a person with money. These people who are supposed to be my friends start robbing me. It's victimisation. It's a big circle, it just goes round and round and round.
ICE-T: Eventually, if you want to stay in the game you gotta kill somebody. The rules of crime demand you gotta play all out, like your uncles. And when you play out there is no law. If you cross me I got to move on you. If I got to snatch you I kidnap you. If I got to kill you I kill you. There's no limits. The people who play like that are the survivors. When you run into these guys that are rolling real hard, they done probably killed three people, it's not a problem.
TRICKY: Exactly. I know my uncles in Bristol they killed people, it's fact. I can tell you now 'cause they paid for the crime. To live that life you've got to be ruthless and I found out at an early age that I wasn't willing to go as far as them to get what I wanted.

Who are your heroes?
TRICKY: My hero's my grandmother. 'Cause I used to rob houses and I wouldn't pay for the crimes I did. You rob someone's house in your neighbourhood, people find out who it is really quick. My nan would stand and fight for me 

with these people and the police in the street at 60 years of age and have a fist fight with the man. So she's my hero. ICE-T: I like Don King. He's like a black man telling people to kiss his ass. He wears his hair straight up in the air, everybody hates him, no, white people hate him. You don't get boxers talking bad about him. He's proving that if you got the merchandise and the knowledge people will deal with you on your terms, because you got what they want. And that's what I model myself on. That's why I still look the same as I did back in the days. I could be running a million dollar company but I won't change.
TRICKY: Another of mine is Tyson. Not just because he's a great fighter, but because he's a youth who made loads of money and then got fucked over. Mike Tyson is a living example, a living example! All this rape thing, I don't know whether he did it or not, but I'm paranoid see, so I think: is he in prison 'cause of rape or because he hasn't been a good boy?
ICE.T: He didn't kiss America's ass. He made his money, he was all telling them, kiss my ass. He's with Don King - they all hate Don King. So we got him in a little situation. And it's a travesty, it's a sad thing. Like, you know how they say, Jesus Christ died for our sins, I think Mike went in jail to let a lot of brothers know, "Yo, no matter how much loot you got, if you step the wrong way, they'll put your punk ass in jail." 
TRICKY: That's it. He's a living example. I was reading about Tupac yesterday. He's fucked with the police, fucked the people in court, all of a sudden he gets shot five times and they call it robbery. That's a bit suspicious to me. But that's my paranoia again.
ICE-T: I know Tupac. Tupac is just fucking up. That's just the bottom line. You know how you say you learnt growing up. Tupac is late in the fourth quarter playing some bullshit. It's like, I can come to you and be like, "Yo Tricky, you the man, you buckwild, let's go do something." You're supposed to be like, hold on, that was back then, not now.
TRKKY: Exactly. To a certain extent all these people telling you these good things about yourself, it's not healthy. You start thinking you're above everything and you can do anything. It gives you attitude. Tupac should put his attitude in his music. When you start carrying it on the street, you have to pay for it.
Do you have more in common as black people or with your fellow Americans or Britons?

TRICKY: We probably have more in common as people. I grew up in a white ghetto with probably five black families. It was like living with a bunch of rednecks. I was moving with these kids called "The Breeds", half-caste families, they weren't liked so we had to go out and take respect 'cause we were living in a white community.
ICE-T: You can make contact with anybody, it depends on whether they can hear you or connect with you. I've had kids come up to me in Bosnia... 
TRICKY: And have something in common, yeah. I was in Brixton doing a photo shoot, which is a black community, but you've got white boys with no money there and they're going, "Yeah Tricky, what's up?"
ICE-T: Kids in LA might not know what's going on in Brixton, but the music helps us learn. You start saying, "Hey, they're going through the same shit." You might not be from there, but if you seem like you give a fuck, I connect. I can sit and listen to you talk and you can sit and listen to me talk...
TRICKY: Definitely, 'cause there's a connection.

Both of you have explored thrash metal, Ice- T with Body Count, Tricky with "Black Steel". What's the attraction of that music?

TRICKY: Me personally, it's not just that it's thrash. In England a black man ain't supposed to be involved with thrash music, they want me to be talking about guns and this and that. So what you see on my album is me wearing lipstick, I spray my hair silver, I'll wear a wedding dress in my photos, 'cause I'm saying fuck you. I really don't give a fuck. I've still got a lot of attitude in rne but I know I can't go out and rob people, but I still want to do those things so I do it through my music. I'm saying fuck you. That's what my whole music is about - fuck you!
ICE-T: Like you say, fuck you! I was into punk because the shit was like fuck you, it was rage. I loved rock. I used to look at rock bands and be like, "Yo, that shit's dope, I'd like to do that." I never knew that being black you weren't supposed to like rock. And basically, if I'm Ice-T and I'm 

OG [Original Gangsta] then whatever I say is fly is fly. And all the rest of you muthafuckas, kiss my muthafuckin' ass.

What's the difference between men and women?
ICE-T: Men are weak.
TRICKY: Yeah, men are very weak. You fuck with a man and he's instant rage. You fuck with a woman and two years later she makes you suffer. That's ruthless.
ICE-T: They're more like cats, we're more like dogs. We balance each other. But men basically like sex from women. That's one of the things women are for.
TRICKY: My relationship with women isn't like that. I kind of fear women. My grandmother scares me. I won't fuck with her now and she's 80. I've been out with a girl who I've been fucking over for two years and all of a sudden she makes me burn. I just love that aspect of ruthlessness. ICE-T: With me the only difference between a man and a woman is women can be your homegirl, your partner, your business associate. But there's a point where friendship crosses the line and intimacy gets in. If me and you watch a movie together we can sit and kick it. With me and a girl, we cuddle, and you exchange this male, feminine thing. There's moments when I'm with the right woman and I can rest my head and they can tell me, "Ice it's gonna be OK." I'm an affection junkie, maybe 'cause I didn't have a mother.
TRICKY: You can't cry in front of your friends. I have to keep up an appearance to people, I'm just setting up a record label so I have to be in control all the time. But I trust women more than men. I'm not embarrassed in any way if they see me being vulnerable. You can, to a certain extent, be like that with men, but you have to be close to them.
ICE-T: I'm not comfortable with that in any way! I don't like men that way. I'm straight as 6 o'clock. I just have no desires to be near men. Me and you are cool, but if your knee touched mine, shivers go through my body.
TRICKY: The simple thing with me is I'm not homophobic but I don't trust men at all. I don't know whether it's 'cause I never had a mum but I seem to surround myself with women. I've got a weird thing about women. I need them around me all the time, I need women to like me, I need women to love me. 'Cause I'm insecure.
ICE-T: Men are weak. After coming out of the pimp game

and watching what men do behind pussy and seeing how they turn inside out for that, I realised women have the power, women control the world.
TRICKY: Men are supposed to be the tough guys. They go off to war, they stagger across a field, they shoot each other. But let them try staying at home bringing up three children. That's tough, that's what I call hard.

So what does it mean to be a man?
TRICKY: I think society has got the words "to be a man" all fucked up. You try bringing up three kids. If I brought up three kids on my own, I'd call myself a real man. At the moment I don't know what it's like to be a man. I haven't done anything as strong as that.
ICE-T: To me being a man is just being able to stick to your responsibilities and stand by your convictions. Anybody can have a baby, but you have to take care of that child. If you say something, stand by it. As a man you have to handle your business and do your shit. You gotta stick by your word 'cause that's all you got.
TRICKY: I don't know about stuff like that. I've made a lot of mistakes and I'm still making them. But names like man, woman, it's all bullshit, we're all fucking alien. I'd rather call myself alien 'cause I don't really understand society. I got a problem with someone saying to me, that's a man, that's a woman. Where the fuck do those ideas come from?
ICE-T: But looking at a woman and feeling your dick getting hard, that's a man. The mothafucka just start going "boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom" and then you walk over and start saying shit like, "What are you studying?" when all you want is to go like a lion, rworrgh! See the animals do it different. Like tigers go up in the woods, the girl she throws her tail up in the air, sprays the area and she just like, "I'm ready." And then rworrgh, rworrgh, it's on. And if you ever watch them muthafuckas fuck, we got a lot to learn.
TRICKY: Sex is over-rated. We're animals, sex is only for breeding. We ain't supposed to enjoy this, our dicks get hard, you fuck, you have a baby, that's what people are designed to do, to breed. Enjoying sex is not a natural thing!
ICE-T: No, I disagree! I believe that whoever got this whole thing together, they wanted us .....

[the end is missing, sorry!!!]

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 photos: Jake Chassum