Over the last couple of years, there haven’t been many more fascinating and flawed characters in music than Slowthai. The rapper made mistakes that have been in the public eye and, in a bold move, he has tried his best to own them. However, he knows that his behaviour precisely one year ago today at the NME Awards will still be the only thing that a lot of people know about him. Nobody is more aware of Slowthai’s flaws than the man himself and, on Tyron, he takes a lengthy-look in the mirror across the 14-songs that make up his brand new album.
Coincidentally or uncoincidentally, fortune would have it that his second album would fall exactly a year to the day since his lowest moment. He was trending endlessly on social media for days, and his stupid drunken antics made Slowthai public enemy number one. Now, precisely twelve months on from being Britain’s most wanted man, the Northampton rapper has delivered a masterclass that reminds everyone why we fell in love with him as an artist in the first place.
The first seven tracks showcase the more energetic side of the rapper. This gear change is signified with the CAPS LOCK ON for the tracks’ titles. Whereas the second half of the record is all titled in lower case, highlighting the artist’s desire to put his message across in the finer details. Tyron celebrates both the caps-lock uncaged instinctive part of him that gets him in a spot of trouble as well as the lower-cased introspective, melancholic side to Tyron Frampton and his nuanced view of life. Nobody is just one thing, we are all complex beings, and few are more complex than Slowthai.
Album opener ’45 SMOKE’ gets Tyron started in a fiery fashion. “‘Cause I grew up ’round shotters, coppers, alcoholics, Drinking Foster’s, anabolic,” he says reflecting on his adolescence on the track before later self-deprecatingly saying, “People think I’m Satan’s son”. That line is a poignant one and reflects how he views the perception of Slowthai, across the first seven tracks of the record he fires back at the people that have written him off as a lost cause by sticking his middle finger up at them.
‘CANCELLED’ sees Slowthai stand up to the wave of criticism he received last year for his problematic antics, and proudly announce that he ain’t disappearing anywhere anytime soon. Slowthai spits on the track: “She said I do magic like Harry Potter, I’m off the vodka, Orderin’ lobster, said it’s preposterous, I’m so obnoxious, I need a doctor, Said I won’t comeback, I must be cancer, ain’t got much longer, Then I made a comeback, kick it like Ong Bak, now I got blood on my jumper.”
The outro for ‘PLAYING WITH FIRE’ shifts towards Slowthai’s dismay to the world being against him and takes a sobering turn when he honestly says, “Sometimes I feel like I’ve got my head in a blender, Compromised for too many empty promises, If you love the world for its flaws, you will never be disappointed.”
The record feels like a therapy session for Slowthai who is getting everything off his chest at full-speed, and the unfiltered nature of the album gives it a weight of sincerity that’s hard to come by. Even if some of the lyrics aren’t particularly groundbreaking or thought-provoking, there’s an honesty that runs through Tyron that makes it an impressive record.
Collaboration is a vital part of the record’s success, and every artist who features on the album makes a strong impact. Whether this is A$AP Rocky on ‘MAZZA’ or Dominic Fike on ‘terms’, there isn’t a single contribution that doesn’t add something to the song in which they feature. He lets these artists he admires into his world and make their dent into it by allowing them all to shine and even upstage him as Skepta does on ‘Cancelled’, where you forget that it’s a Slowthai track rather than vice versa.
The female vocals that Deb Never delivers on ‘push’ are heavenly and work with Slowthai’s introspective lyrics beautifully. The track and ‘i tried’ are the most poignant moments on the album, as Thai manages to be optimistic and positive without ever veering into cringe territory.
The uplifting second half of the album feels like the place where Slowthai is right now, and the first half of the record represents that arduous journey he went on to reach this place of contentment. The closing number, ‘adhd’, remarkably ends the album and cultivates the duality of Slowthai in one song. One second he’s phoning his expressing his love to his friend on the phone and the next he’s firing through an angsty verse, which perfectly summarises the record and him in the space of 30-seconds.
Overall, Tyron is complicated and shows that Slowthai isn’t the tabloid villain we witnessed a year ago today. He’s open about his imperfections and doesn’t profess to be anything but a guy who will still fuck up from time to time. From an artistic standpoint, the album is far from being a fuck-up and provides a window into the mind of one of the most polarising figures in British music.
After the year he had in 2020, Slowthai has finally had his say on Tyron which sees him at his most vulnerable and his most visceral at the same time.