In Britain for his live dates, Ice Cube is staying in a swanky Chelsea hotel with his wife Kim and his baby son, O'Shea Jr. The 23-year-old rapper is wary of the press, wary of everybody it seems, checking into the hotel under an alias and responding to pleasantries with the staccato intensity of a Mastermind contestant. How is the baby? 'Well.' Are you enjoying your stay? 'Yes.'
To many, he is a fount of racist, misogynist bile. One paper recently ran a picture of him holding an AK47 assault rifle, but failed to point out that this was a still from his forthcoming movie, Trespass. This is a gaffe symptomatic of the muddling of image and reality which dogs him. But ask him why he writes raps like 'A Bitch is a Bitch', 'Black Korea' or 'Now I Gotta Wet'cha' and he claims it's a matter of psychological rehabilitation.
'The kids are addicted to sex and violence. That's what they've been fed all their lives. To get them to understand, you have to give them a little taste of what they're addicted to, then give them a cure for their addiction. And that's what I do. I give them the things that they know, sex and violence. And then something to attract them away from that. It's a whole evolutionary process and hopefully by my seventh or eighth album I won't even have to put sex or violence on the record, just feed them straight knowledge.'
What about Ice Cube's misogyny? An expression of a ghetto pathology or a personal view? His manager, an African American woman (she was formerly publicist for NWA, but left with Cube after his split from the group in 1989) who tells me Saturday shopping in Kensington High Street is 'a bit intense', has no problem with a track like 'Bitch Killa'. 'I'm far more terrified of men in suits who support women's causes. I'm far less terrified of someone who speaks the language of the streets and can separate it from real life.'
Back downstairs, Ice Cube just misses David Mellor MP with his wife and children, as he directs the unsteady gait of his son through the hotel foyer towards a waiting limousine. He says he's enjoying being a father. I venture that the hard man image isn't entirely representative.
'I'm pretty sure you read more about me than I do. I don't get off on that.' And then he leaves, only pausing to deliver a passing death threat. 'If people think I'm a myth, let them get out of line with me. I'm a calm, peaceful person, to be honest, cos I'm able to release my frustrations on record. But no one's going to try and harm me or do anything to me, because I will kill them. As a peaceful man, I will kill them.'Reuse content