Tricky originally said in an interview with Ray Gun in October 1996 that he wanted to make an 'out-an-out punk record' and that..
I thought it was going be heavier. I thought it was just going to be an out-an-out punk record. But you end up straying. What I wanted to do was a total fast album. Some of the tracks are fast and hard, but they didn't come out like that.
He also said that he hated being stuck with the trip-hop tag:
That's why I did Nearly God, and that's why I did Pre-Millennium Tension. You can't see them as trip-hop albums. So I just keep running away from it. But the farther you run, it's still there. They'll find you.
The album was recorded in Jamaica, possibly explaining the heavy Rastafarian influence on the album. Parts were also recorded at Platinum Islands Studio, New York. It was recorded & mixed by Ian Caple recorded in Grove Studios, Ocho Rios, Jamaica & mixed at El Cortijo Studio in Spain. Following the unexpected success of Maxinquaye, Tricky made a much darker, more paranoid sonic landscape for this release, resulting in a more abrasive, and far less accessible album. It features longtime collaborator Martina Topley-Bird, and former Mama's Boys guitarist Pat McManus.
The album contains many various lyrical references to the Rastafari movement. Examples include:
In the song "Tricky Kid", the lines "Here comes the Nazarene, look good in that magazine, Haile Selassie I, they look after I", referring to Haile Selassie I, an important figure to Rastafaris (who believe that he is God reincarnated). The "I", meaning 'the First', is pronounced as "eye", the Rastafarian style.
In the song "Makes Me Wanna Die", the line "A small piece, an ism" referring to Rastafari's hatred of -isms
Very heavily throughout the song "Ghetto Youth", with heavy use of Rastafari slang such as:
"An' if a likkle fire ever get weh?" (If a little fire ever gets away)
"Mi' don know seh" (I already know that)
"Chu, mi nah lef' him at all" (I'm not leaving him at all)
"Gwan hol' tings" (Keep doing your thing) and,
"An' we ah out dessuh a bruk our hand and our neck fi yu'" (And we're out there breaking our hand and neck for you)
It was included in Q Magazine's 50 Heaviest Albums of All Time.
In a 1997 interview between journalist Liz Jones and Prince, Jones tells Prince he should listen to Tricky, because Tricky reminds her of Prince in his early career. Intrigued, Prince asks her the name of Tricky's latest album, she says "Pre-Millennium Tension" and Prince spontaneously answers "well, isn't that another way to say ‘1999’" (1999 being Prince's breakthrough album released in 1982.) This interview is featured in Liz Jones' book "Slave to the Rhythm."
^Q (12/96, p.138) – 4 Stars (out of 5) – "...Conventional instruments like pianos or harmonicas jostle with found sounds over ferocious rhythm tracks in an unsettling soundscape where anything can happen, providing it's knuckle-clenching and sweat-inducing....Uneasy yet undeniably brilliant..."
^Spin (12/96, p.139) – 9 (out of 10) – "...Inspired rather than threatened by hip-hop, Tricky tosses it off like a Stussy cape....At his most compelling, Tricky calls everything into question, including himself....his music, a collage of gasping beats and forlorn chords, speaks beyond words..."