2019’s ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ found Northampton rapper, slowthai provide a very English take on life in the UK; delivered with tongue in cheek humour, a relatable anger but also a notable vulnerability, his debut album struck a chord with a disenchanted nation in a state of societal and political disarray (we still are in that state by the way). While documenting modern day England, Tyron Frampton (aka slowthai) sprinkled his own
personality amongst the more general themes, giving shoutouts to his hometown and offering a touching sentiment to his mother and his family.
For Frampton’s sophomore album, the MC has opted to go down a more meditative route with an album that’s bestowed with his Christian name ‘TYRON’ and that’s split into two distinct halves. The first 7 tracks represent the slowthai persona of our protagonist’s demeanour, which is classified as his more aggressive and extroverted side. These songs are styled in ALL CAPS. Tracks 8-14, styled in lowercase, embody Tyron, which is the more introspective, less acerbic side of his identity.
Accompanying ‘TYRON’s release, slowthai has put out the following statement “thank you all for supporting me and my music. this album was created during a difficult time in my life, i am far from perfect but i’ve learnt a lot about myself whilst creating this album and i will continue to grow into a better person for myself and aim to be a reflection of what i’d want to see in this world. i hope this album allows you to accept yourself for who you are and find growth where you need it.” Much like the architect behind this body of work, ‘TYRON’ is a complicated, brash, sometimes confusing, sometimes frustrating, and sometimes brilliant listen. Think of this record as less of a traditional album but more of a mixtape or a series of well-produced, impulsive diary entries by someone wanting and needing to get things out of their heads.
Where ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ was a breath of fresh air, slowthai’s follow up, at times, falls into a myriad of cliché rap pitfalls; you can accept hip-hop, rap, grime et al as being a genre littered with bravado, calling out haters and macho posturing but for slowthai, despite his anarchic facade, the soundbites about being “a money fiend” on ‘MAZZA’ or ‘been bad since I stepped out the womb’ on ‘VEX’ feel like copy/paste staples from anyone’s vision of what a rapper should be saying and doing. The inclusion of A$AP Rocky on ‘MAZZA’ only solidifies a standard rap trope of a big time MC on a track, talking about popping champagne corks – it’s a million miles away from slowthai reminiscing about “Gameboys and stick fights” on his debut. Also, stating “what doesn’t kill makes you stronger’ on ‘DEAD’ pushes the cliché factor to the max.
While you would expect the first half of the album to be all bragging and swagger, the second half, the more introspective part, still contains moments of inflated egomania. ‘i tried’ sees Frampton fancying himself a notorious gangster “a legend in the making/as a kid I dreamt I was Al Capone”. While ‘terms’ featuring Dominic Fike and Denzel Curry, has the Northampton boy declare “being a bitch ain’t in my genes” over a facsimile-esque, US flecked r’n’b slow jam. Whereas some of the guest appearances don’t hit the mark, more often than not they strike a bullseye. ‘CANCELLED’ with Skepta comes out swinging about, well, being cancelled, assumingly a response to the backlash about how Frampton conducted himself at the 2020 NME Awards. The rapper found himself in hot water after making lewd remarks and gestures towards host Katherine Ryan before scuffling with members of the audience once they began calling him out for his inappropriate actions. With minimal beats and a booming bassline, this is where the punkish energy of slowthai rises to the top. A dichotomy to the aggro of ‘CANCELLED’ is the acoustic strum of ‘push’, which is accompanied by Deb Never’s delicate tones. The juxtaposition of slowthai’s rapid flow and Never’s vocals help convey a moment of tenderness, underpinned by a feeling of determination. ‘feel away’ introduces a team up between James Blake and Mount Kimbie, where murky, languid beats and delicate nuances envelope Tyron’s quick-fire rap, which is smoothed off by Blake’s choirboy delivery. This is where the album delivers on the promise of unearthing slowthai’s introspective side, which is typified by the confessional “suddenly I’m half the man I used to be”.
Perhaps the most well rounded track and a true representation of ‘TYRON’ (the album, the rapper and the man), is closing moment ‘adhd’, a song that traverses darker realms, via sturdy beats, rewound noises and a plethora of multifaceted, disembodied voices veering close to the Thom Yorke region of haunting. slowthai flits from exposed “they can’t see the tears through the raindrops/tough lad and I always put a face on/told me already that leopards can’t change spots” to full on rage, as the rapper literally bellows “my complexity/be the death of me” and “I have tendencies/psycho tendencies”. It’s fitting way to close off an album that’s not without its rough edges.
“love the world for its flaws/you’ll never be disappointed” proclaims Frampton midway through his (kind of) eponymous LP and it’s this sentiment that can be attributed to ‘TYRON’. It’s a far from perfect album but it’s a statement of intent, an outpouring of emotion from someone willing to lay themselves bare in a time they felt the need to reflect and to heal.