|when hip hop met trip hop...|
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?
|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?
|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.
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!
|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?
|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?
[the end is missing, sorry!!!]
photos: Jake Chassum