Northampton’s prodigal son returns with his second album, prominently titled with Slowthai’s real first name, TYRON is a story of two tales. Whilst his debut album, Nothing Great About Britain soared him to greater heights than perhaps he could have predicted, fuelled by political message and its depiction of modern day Britain for what it really is, this second album takes a more introspective journey into the mind of Tryon Frampton.
This time last year there was controversy surrounding Slowthai after being inebriated and making crude remarks towards comedian Katherine Jenkins at the NME awards, later apologising after a joke went too far. Jenkins herself even went on to say that she fully accepted his apology and didn’t feel under threat. This however lead to a tyranny of backlash, people feeling that the true Slowthai had been revealed. It may seem as though some of the anger felt around this situation continued onto this album, however the likes of “CANCELLED” where Skepta and Slowthai bounce back and forth listing accolades that mean they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon “Twenty awards on the mantelpiece, Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury” were plights of ammunition that had already been stocked up. He did released reactionary single “ENEMY” shortly after the controversy but says that “got all the anger about the event out of his system“.
The first half of this album however is still drenched in this reactionary rage; all track titles being written in capitals. From the haunting soundscape of opener “45 SMOKE” to the siren induced “WOT” as Slowthai sings of absurdist childlike insults “In the rave, drop a eccy with your mum”. This opening half is Slowthai swaggering about, still declaring his worth. On the hypnotising “MAZZA”, which is Slowthai’s way of saying ADHD, a condition the rapper suffers with, he’s trying to break down his newly found fast paced lifestyle. But this front that Slowthai is trying to put on soon breaks down. As the nostalgia induced sound of “PLAY WITH FIRE” sweeps in you can hear him starting to pull back the curtain on his mentality. “I wish I pressed skip, everything is negative, It gets hectic, strеssin’, if you’re from the place I livе” he declares as the verse opens, slowly descending into an almost therapeutic spoken word passage towards the end of the song.
This then leads to the mood and feel of the second half of the album, reflective and self doubting. This mood is even set by the all lower case letters on the track titles, the vail has been pulled back. Throughout the next seven tracks Slowthai gets his most introspective, gritting his teeth through the trauma. “No one I can lean on so I’m limping with a walking stick, People keep talking shit I cut through the thick of it” he raps with a more laid back feel on “focus”. Through this inwards look you see an artist who is trying to come to terms with the position he’s in, no matter what he does he will be judged for it, whether it be holding up a fake decapitated head of Boris Johnson on live television (although this stunt was definitely trying to induce a reaction) or simply releasing a song that attacks cancel culture, the haters will always be there.
But from realising the problem he tries to turn things around, shifting his perspective from the negative, self pitying to the positive, being grateful for what we have. The true pinnacle of this album comes in the form of “nhs”, similarly to his debut album this song very much captures a moment and feeling within British life. Broken down the lyrics reflect on the way as a society we always want that bit more, but one thing doesn’t come without the other, and focusing too much on the negative is “gonna make you depressed”. Aptly titled, this ode to Britain’s health care system is trying to understand why something so precious to us is only truly appreciated when we’re in desperate need of it, still some don’t give it the appreciation it deserves “Jack the lad, only happy when they clap (NHS)”.
There of course has to be mention of the production of this album, though the tracks shift through varying moods and soundscapes there’s always a consistency in its diversity that ties everything seamlessly together. Mainly fronted by Kews Darko, who produces a large majority of Slowthai’s discography, there are appearances from the likes of hip-hop mastermind Kenny Beats on “terms” and SAMO on “MAZZA”. An aspect that stands out are some of Slowthai’s most melancholic soundscapes that appear on the latter half, from the acoustic driven “push” featuring some truly dreamy chorus vocals from Deb Never to the crooning “feel away” that is drenched in nostalgia. James Blake’s ASMR induced vocals not only compliment the slower grit of Slowthai’s vocals but bring a real sense of serenity to the album at this late stage. With the rolling piano line and ambient soundscapes it’s hard not to be encapsulated by each level of emotion that every contributor to this track puts in.
Originally this album was intended to be Slowthai’s third album, with another politically charged outing set for his second, he’s not stepping away from that style though rather saying that “When the time’s right I’ll be there, but now’s not the time” . Instead what we got was an album created during a time where people needed reassurance, and Slowthai is here to give it to them. The technical self-titling of this album serves as a perfect summary of the core of this album, it’s every part, every part of Tyron Frampton, it’s loud, it’s in your face, you’re never quite sure when he’s being serious or just creating a character for himself, but deep within is the intricate musings of a young man trying to take in the chaotic world around him.