The music scene for 2021 has proved to be quite the extended sunny day so far. Lockdowns have seen artists get real with their work, unable to be distracted with their endless social calendar. Albums have been raw and authentic, and we’ve been treated to closer views of the artist’s inner workings.
Tyron – UK rapper Slowthai’s newly dropped album, is no exception.
We’ve got two halves to play with here.
The first seven of the album’s 14 tracks are titled in capitals and depict a notion of Slowthai’s more boisterous, public-facing personality. We’re talking dirty beats with street-inspired edges. For a classic Slowthai fiend like myself, the prospect of his usual filth has me absolutely fizzing.
The latter seven tracks are styled in lowercase and touch on a more emotional side of Slowthai (real name Tyron) – which is indeed the name of this two-part album.
Here’s the highlights.
I was on the plane to Queenstown for a wedding when I relished in the record, and it took every damn nerve to not pull a stinky face when track one, titled ‘45 SMOKE’ hit the air pods. (I know you know which face I’m talking about). With lyrics like “the whole world is mine”, we’ve got those big flecks of Slowthai ego streaming through the track, along with that frustratingly sexy UK swagger. Even the beat displays a type of pompous authority that feels like it’ll rip out anyone set to stand in its way.
‘CANCELLED’ is up next with the chorus line “How you gonna cancel me”. Perhaps a tip to last year’s NME Awards where Slowthai verbally squared up host Katherine Ryan, before trying to fight a member of the audience who called him a misogynist. “Now you’re tripping blood” Slowthai raps – guess he killed all the haters in his head. We’ve got sounds of glass smashing in the background along with various moody echo’s I can’t quite make out. The track is far from one-dimensional, and one that will ride on in Slowthai fan-book history for a long time I imagine.
‘MAZZA’ was a fun one. Lengthy drags of words at their end topped with a bounds of swagger. Slowthai totally owns that unphased high octic, as if he’s taking the piss or is half-asleep, before jumping into versus faster than the average could attempt. You’ve got a repetitive like theme-song type sound in the background, that sits under your classic hip-hop beat. I reckon we’ll see some sets from New Zealand’s Royal Dance Crew to this one.
‘WOT’ had a wicked piano riff that topped and tailed the track. She’s only 48 seconds short and is a rhyme you might hear in a rap battle on the streets. ‘WOT’ sounded phenomenal with ‘DEAD’ flowing straight after, which brought the disgusted face back with its perfectly pronounced slurs of UK grime. I almost didn’t know it was the beginning of the next track. A commendable linking from the producers.
The choice of birth name for the album title Tyron could have been a warning for the personal touch but I don’t know if I was prepared to hear the opening lyrics to ‘i tried’. Slowthai opens with “I tried to die, I tried to take my life”, before diving into..”long roads and black holds, broken homes, dreams and bones”. Children’s voices overlay the lyrics and slow-jazz rides in the shadows. You could most definitely play this tune on a chill car ride, a reminder of Mac Miller vibes – in the way he hides harsh realities inside a beautifully finished number.
When Slowthai comes in after the intro to ‘focus’ you realise you truly missed him in the few seconds between tracks – but there he is in all his glory. This track’s got a crazy beat, streams of piano and powerful vocals that linger in your head long after the song finishes. “No-one I can lean on so I’m limping with a walking stick” sounds like Slowthai’s been put through his paces in this celebrity-life. In fact, having no one to trust and references to ‘family being everything’ is a common theme in this whole album’s second half.
Our first female appearance on the album occurs in ‘push’, featuring Deb Never. Deb appears to be singing about Slowthai’s life in narration. Her vocals are heavenly, working with the rapper’s introspective lyrics with a poignant grace – becoming a favourite of mine on the album. Slowthai comes in with “Do stuff I regret and feel embarrassed tomorrow” which leads us to believe he might not keep up the tough act when he’s at home with his thoughts. I like this admission – it’s different, and it’s real. Reflection should never be something to shy away from, even for an incredibly successful rapper.
‘feel away’ combines Slowthais’ grimy rap with James Blakes’ haunting vocals in a collaboration that not only unexpectedly sounds great but is by far the most popular on the album. This culmination of genres perfectly paints the picture of heartbreak and pain and I think we can all relate to both artists’ rendition of the feeling.
I guess we could say this album does one of two things. It hypes us up and gets us going, before inspiring the human in us all to have the freedom to be released. Slowthai definitely wasn’t holding back on this work, letting us see his good and his ugly side, we should count ourselves lucky to experience it.