When Slowthai's debut album dropped, he was an act with the world at his feet. A mercury nomination and work with Gorillaz and Tyler, The Creator swiftly followed, before a controversial appearance at the 2020 NME Awards threatened to derail it all. On second album 'TYRON', Slowthai references this rollercoaster ride (most notably on the Skepta featuring 'Cancelled'), but also looks inward.
On his Top Ten-charting debut full-length, Nothing Great About Britain, slowthai addressed topics concerning Brexit-era England, particularly the widening wage gap and the struggle of the working class. Aggressive and acerbic, the Northampton-born rapper openly mocked high society on standouts like the title track and the punk-infused "Doorman," yet displayed a vulnerable side with songs such as "Northampton's Child" and "Peace of Mind," which reflected on his tumultuous upbringing. His second album is titled after his given first name, and it focuses on the rapper's own complex personality, exposing his inner conflicts and embracing his flaws and contradictions.
In the quest for personal change, acceptance is always the first step. More introspective than the politically-led 'Nothing Great About Britain', 'TYRON' sees slowthai striving to locate the greys between life’s black and whites, offering up context to some of his less admirable conduct in recent years. If the first record was about action, this one is about thought - not an excuse for past indiscretions so much as the suggestion that sometimes, allowing people space for growth is perhaps more useful than indefinitely rehashing old immaturities.
Northampton rapper slowthai made his name with his 2019 debut, Nothing Great About Britain. No surprise, the "Brexit Bandit" incurred criticism from British nationalists for his flaming indictment of his home country. His aggressive musical style and onstage antics, whether motivated by politics or humour, didn't help his reputation.
But slowthai's latest album, TYRON, goes deeper than his grievances against Britain.
808s and piss-takes
When Tyron Frampton was but a wee boy running amok in the streets of Northampton, his laboured manner of speaking earned him a nickname that some of you clever cookies out there might recognise as a homonym: Slow Ty. Ouch. Add an unfortunate dash of poverty into the pot, simmer with a posse of mates destined for petty crime and inevitable incarceration, season with a predilection for drugs as a means of escape, and you have yourself an underdog so desperate and vulnerable that a young Guy Ritchie might've cast Tyron and the boiz as he did all those proper 'ard lookin' Londoners in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in 1998, mapping out an obsessive, Kubrickian level of auteurism that would eventually deliver 2019's magnum opus Aladdin unto a sea of eager cinephiles.
On February 12 last year, it felt like slowthai's world was falling apart. The Northampton rapper had toasted a raft of nominations at the NME Awards and picked up a bird-flipping trophy as "Hero of the Year." But a bad joke taken too far meant the night ended in disaster. His lewd interactions with the show's host, comedian Katherine Ryan, and a later altercation with a member of the audience--after which slowthai was escorted from the venue--made for grim viewing as video clips circulated online, stripped of context.
Buoyed by the success of his incendiary debut album Nothing Great About Britain – nominated for the 2019 Mercury Music Prize – Slowthai certainly isn't short on ambition. In a recent interview, the Northampton-born rapper proclaimed his desire to be the next David Bowie or Bob Dylan, quite a statement from an artist probably best known for tastelessly brandishing a dummy of Boris Johnson's severed head at the aforementioned Mercury ceremony and making lewd remarks to the comedian Katherine Ryan at the NME Awards (for which he subsequently apologised). Messrs Jones and Zimmerman were just a little more subtle.
From the get go it's a swift power play. Opener "45 SMOKE" - a dense instrumental - carries over its anthemic tendencies into the authoritative but sensitive "CANCELLED", featuring Skepta before A$AP Rocky enters the room with his radiating smooth confidence on the minimalistic offering "MAZZA". Each cut perfectly offsetting Slowthai 's urgent, fast-paced delivery.
Two years on from his scene-stealing debut album Nothing Great About Britain, the Northampton, England native has returned with a project of surprising depth but also a frustrating lack of focus. A double album in structure if not in length, TYRON—an album title taken from slowthai's real ….
The Lowdown: slowthai is the type of guy that sends his fans U Mad Bro? troll faces but turns around and tweets promises of a better tomorrow for the lonely. He's the type of guy who strips down to his underwear on the Glastonbury stage but then goes on a 99p tour so anyone can afford to attend his show. He's the kind of guy who sports a tattoo of a caricatured Mona Lisa with "SMILE" on her forehead, but also has "Sorry Mum" inked across his sternum.
Northampton rapper slowthai's public persona is one of boisterous energy, slurring mayhem and unbridled outspokenness. It's clear from the title on down that his second full-length, TYRON, is intended to display a more multi-faceted and deeper person than the one we see running around onstage in his boxers and gurning through cartoonish masks in his press shots. The record's title is his given name, and despite it being a fairly short thirty-six minutes that people will listen to in one sitting on streaming services, it is presented as a 'double album', which is more of a conceptual choice than a format one.