Slowthai’s Newest Therapy Session

The Northampton Rapper returns to form after a tumultuous 2020, and delivers one of the best projects of the year out of the U.K.

Artwork courtesy of Slowthai

Artwork courtesy of Slowthai

Evan Walker, Social Media Editor

Tyron Frampton, otherwise known as UK rapper “Slowthai,” had a relatively rough 2020,  just like everyone else. At last year’s New Musical Express Awards in London, shortly after winning the “hero” award, Slowthai had a rather poor showing during his acceptance speech exchange with presenter Katherine Ryan, as he continued making lewd comments towards Ryan, with the ensuing fallout from that interaction starting off his year. 

This naturally garnered the rage of social media, who continued to berate Slowthai with accusations of him being a misogynist, despite Ryan herself saying she was completely unbothered by his comments.  

Then the pandemic hit, with his fan support at an all-time low and his last public appearance being the spectacle it was, we see Slowthai rebuild himself over this dazzling two-sided album. 

“TYRON” shares quite a few similarities with Slowthai’s previous works, from its critiques of society and its standards, the production, and the features. From an objective standpoint, it’s very much a “Slowthai-Esque” piece of work.

Yet if one digs deeper, it’s noticeable that this is also the most refined piece of work in Slowthai’s discography, from the emotions put on the forefront of each song, to the beat selection, the overall pacing, his messaging, even down to the cover art. 

If I know one thing, Slowthai surely has evolved musically throughout this quarantine, and this album flows much more like a high-class contemporary abstract art piece than a stereotypical rap album. 

Standing at 14 tracks, the first half of this album is rougher than the back half. This is also exhibited by the all-caps stylization of the tracks on the first half versus the lowercase stylization on the second half, which brings Drake’s two-sided album “Scorpion” to mind when thinking of two different sounds being placed on opposite ends of the album. This also begs the question: Would these songs do better as just their own album? 

To start off, the audience is thrown into “45 SMOKE”, which is an intense and brash effort into giving Slowthai a backstory that explains why he is the hardened persona that he puts on. Although this type of song is not representative of the project as a whole, I still think it’s a great intro to Slowthai’s most personal and introspective album yet. 

Then, the mood changes yet again, where we come to the stellar songs of the first half “CANCELLED” featuring Skepta (which also directly references Slowthai’s fallout from his interaction with Katherine Ryan) and “MAZZA” featuring A$AP Rocky.

 In both of these songs, I will say Slowthai definitely takes a back seat in terms of memorable verses; however, Skepta at this point of this career might just be the greatest Grime rapper to ever live, and naturally, he glides on any feature he touches so I can’t fault Slowthai on that respect. 

While A$AP Rocky’s verse in “MAZZA” is more bittersweet, it’s undoubtedly one of Rocky’s better verses in newer years. This in turn leaves the audience wanting more of him rather than Slowthai. 

Next comes what I like to call the “fillers” in “VEX,” “WOT” and “ DEAD.” These are not bad songs, however they don’t really add much to the album.

The real meat and potatoes of the album begin with  “PLAY WITH FIRE.” which actually begins to prepare us for the venture into Slowthai’s psyche in the second half. In the outro of this song, we see Slowthai quote a lot of his past tweets, while also adding troubling commentary behind them, from thoughts of suicide to self-depreciation amongst many other worrisome statements.

Finally, this leads us to the all-star gathering of tracks that is the second half of this album. “I tried”  begins with the lines “long road, took a tumble down this black hole/Stuck in Sunday League but I’m on levels with Ronaldo.” When paired with the sample of Trey Gruber’s “I Tried,” it effectively gives you the picture of a man, who is at their lowest point, or feels like they’re stuck in a void when oxymoronically they’re perfectly fine with where they are in life and wouldn’t really want to be with somewhere else. 

But the quality returns on “terms” featuring Dominic Fike and Denzel Curry, “push” featuring Deb Never, with “nhs” brings back the introspective, deep thinker, version of Slowthai that the world was introduced to in his first album. And with solid lines about freedom and why we do not have to conform to social standards through a barrage of metaphors like “What’s an actor with no actress/What’s a bedroom to a mansion?” 

“nhs” is where we get to see the rare part of Slowthai where he actively encourages people to embrace their insecurities and to actively seek things that will make them happy in the long term and not getting caught up in the small things. In the end, Slowthai even tells people that this is meant to be a song of freedom and that although it sounds sad in tone, “this is a happy song.” Because in the end “what’s a flight without turbulence” and people should take life as it comes.

Then finally, the last two tracks “feel away” featuring James Blake and Mount Kimbie, and “adhd” effectively end the album in cinematic tragedy style. Where the former is about a crumbling relationship, and the latter ends the album on a darker note, where we almost see Slowthai ready to commit suicide and he basically makes it the ledge, before he comes to his senses, and realizes all he has to live for through the help of some unknown person. 

Conceptually this album is stunning and it’s very much a case study on Slowthai’s mental capacity and his thoughts on life as a whole. While there are certainly some very underwhelming points of this album, Slowthai still manages to paint rather vivid images of his life and what life is to him through imagery, metaphors, and symbolism among others. Therefore, I feel as though this album effectively reaches Slowthai’s goal to allow people to see him for him and for people to be more aware of mental health in general. 

So, although I won’t say it’s an album of the year, it’s definitely one of the better releases of 2021  and should be checked out by anyone who enjoys conceptual albums and rappers who embrace social and mental health.