The most transparent approach to date
Oliver Corrigan
09:35 12th February 2021

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I can't speak for all Slowthai fans, but I have no memory of the British rapper ever preaching akin to the Dalai Lama. Perhaps this is due to the myriad heights and pitfalls since his critically-acclaimed, Brexit-bashing 2019 debut LP, but since the pandemic things have taken a turn for the ruminative, leading to a rebirth of sorts on sophomore LP TYRON. 

Invariably at this LP’s outset, we pick up where we left off from Nothing Great About Britain, through ‘45 SMOKE’ and ‘CANCELLED’ which reek with a braggadocious swagger. Fuelled with pristine production and a hard-hitting disdain toward societal norms, Slowthai seethes with rage at  ‘cancel culture’, spiralling towards severe bouts of paranoia in the following track ‘MAZZA’. Whilst both tracks brim with enticing features from Skepta and A$AP Rocky who effortlessly coalesce with Slowthai’s unique delivery, the record already seems as if it has a point to make, an avenue to follow, a brooding cauldron by which Slowthai has been concocting these emotions in recent years.

The real exploration into Slowthai’s mind begins with Side 2 and the Tyler, The Creator/Madlib-esque soulfulness as wailings and gliding synths encase ‘i tried’, and soft percussion caresses the undercurrent of ‘focus’. Here, Slowthai probes with an introspective friction, perennially tussling with his vengeful and sentimental feelings as he reckons with a challenging past (“I tried to make it out the rubble but I rose like a diamond”). However, just as Slowthai pinpoints his triumphs along the way, the memories (or lack thereof) from his drunken altercation at the NME Awards show last year emerge again, strangling him back to a sobering reality within ‘terms’. The consistent oscillation between rebellion and shame keep this album grounded throughout yet eerily unpredictable - never quite sure which treacherous route he may explore at his own cost.

Self-loving preaching from Slowthai surges to the fore as the record learns from its ugly lessons of the past and provides an assuaging narrative in its second half. Beaming with rays of caressing self-love within ‘push’, the rest of the tracks thereafter follow suit as we transcend through ‘nhs’, ‘feel away’ and ‘adhd’. Backed with an elusive set of production techniques as well as the sumptuous influences of James Blake and Mount Kimbie, Slowthai encroaches and retreats further into himself, indelibly concluding: “it’s not you so I guess it’s me...judge me tenderly, heaven let me in”.

Like many of us under the current nation-wide lockdown, Slowthai has inevitably come to terms with his past tribulations, attempting to control his emotions and own his responsibilities. In this sense, TYRON documents Slowthai’s most transparent approach to date, an unseen and ongoing story of two halves, forever seeking the other side of affairs and other avenues in which to explore, learn and grow. Seething with lyrical and productional prowess matched by few in the current UK rap scene, experimentation with Slowthai’s flow is lacking a little as the rapper falls back on his predictably comforting ways. But while TYRON doesn’t hold all of life’s answers, it clings to its overarching message of accepting the flaws within our world and encouraging a sense of endearment as we evolve through this challenging period.

TYRON is out now via Method Records.

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Photo: Press