Monday, March 15, 2021

The return of Slowthai: reviewing Tyron

Slowthai has re-entered the spotlight with his new album, Tyron. Featuring collaborations with ASAP Rocky, Skepta and many more top artists, the Northampton rapper’s newest album is not one to be missed.

Slowthai has never been afraid of exceeding expectations, breaking social norms, or hiding polemical opinions; often making national news headlines with his energetic, daring, and chaotic performances. Although his fast paced, and often, politically charged music may not be to everyone’s taste, one subject on which all can agree is his unwavering ability to cause a stir: holding up a model of Boris Johnson’s severed head at the 2019 Mercury Prize ceremony and starting a brawl with a crowd member during the 2020 NME Awards are just a fraction of examples of the British rapper’s anarchic persona. 

Now in 2021, following his break from the public eye after his controversial behaviour at the NME’s, Slowthai has returned to the music sphere with his new album, Tyron

Divided into two distinct discs, perhaps a reflection of his multifaceted personality, the album immediately draws attention. The capitalised titles of Disc 1- and lower-case titles of Disc 2 visually distinguish the album from his previous works, and immediately set up a clear dichotomy in Tyron’s style.

Featuring his fellow global superstars from the rap and grime scene, Asap Rocky and Skepta, the collection of more brash, energetic, and ballsy songs in Disc 1 remains faithful to the Slowthai’s trademark kinetic style. As Slowthai critiques the supposed ‘cancel culture’ of the current music industry in track two of the album, CANCELLED (ft. Skepta),in which Skepta repeatedly asks how you gonna cancel me? it becomes clear that Slowthai’s denounced behaviour at the NME’s imposed a substantial influence on the creation of his new album. Yet, in this anger-fuelled condemnation of toxic social media culture, Slowthai seems to occupy the back seat, instead leaving the chorus to his grime co-star Skepta. 

In Disc 1, Slowthai yet again demonstrates his refusal to hide his madcap characteristics. Collaborating with Asap Rocky on track two of Disc 1, MAZZA (feat. ASAP Rocky), Slowthai does not make an attempt to sugar-coat his experience with narcotics; rapping about ‘wraps of cocaine’ and ‘suicidal tendencies’, the Northampton rapper’s unpredictable and turbulent character becomes more easily understood, as he underlines the damaging yet addictive effects of his own personal drug use. 

Of course, Slowthai’s album would not be complete without expressing his virile opposition to UK leadership. The rapper, whose stomach tattoo reads ‘Nothing great about Britain’, is used to being overtly vocal about his disdain for UK political figures; in Tyron he makes no exceptions. In his track DEAD, Slowthai makes reference to the very title of his album as unsurprisingly criticises Johnson, ‘cause I run my town but I’m nothin’ like Boris, tyron for PM’. It is clear that in even the title of his new album, Slowthai intends to maintain the anti-governmental current that runs so virulently through his new and old music.

Yet, such streaks of rebellion, unruliness and controversy do not seem to infiltrate the second half of the album to the same extent. In Slowthai’s more sentimental collection of tracks in Disc 2, he leaves behind his ‘Inglorious Bastard’ persona and instead reveals the more human, emotional facets of his character.

In an interview with The Official Charts Company, Slowthai admits how, during the creation of Tyron, he struggled with his mental health, stating that he was at ‘one of the darkest points of (his) life’. Yet this is not the first time the rapper has spoken of his experience with mental illness: in a lengthy tweet posted by the rapper in February 2020, he addressed his personal struggle with ADHD since he was a child, and his difficulty finding his identity ‘I trick myself liking things I hate and hating the things I love. I’ve never known what’s best for me’ (Twitter, Feb 2020). Thus, the second disc of Tyron is perhaps an extension of the personal battles he discussed when he took to twitter this time last year.

Written largely whilst in lockdown, Slowthai’s second disc explores themes of nostalgia, solitude, and childhood. The Northampton rapper’s track push, which features the whispery, ethereal vocals of American-born singer, Deb Never, seems almost autobiographical as Slowthai raps ‘out of the dark he found a road… the calm comes after the storm’, which could easily be linked to his emergence out of his ‘darkest points’ and back into the music scene. The style of the song itself seems to echo such idea of ‘calmness’, as the slower tempo paired with Never’s light vocals presents an undeniable contrast between the virulence and strife he displayed in Disc 1. 

In juxtaposition to the gritty, fast-paced lyrics of previous tracks like VEX and CANCELLED (feat. Skepta), Slowthai’s track ‘nhs’ similarly adopts a more emotional and introspective tone. In nhs, he significantly asks ‘what’s a flight without turbulence?’ and affirms that ‘all the best shit’s got scratches on the surface’, which is undoubtedly linked to the ups and downs of his life, music career and tainted public image. Later in the song, the rapper goes on to reflect upon his childhood memories ‘I was on the strip with the kids playing Simon Says’, perhaps revealing his own struggle to make sense of the world and changing his persona from that of a fearless hooligan in the first disc of Tyron, to that of his childhood self in the second.

Through demonstrating such an undeniable range of style, vocal ability, and lyrical talent, the rapper’s newest album has already made its mark in the UK music scene, overtaking the Foo Fighters to secure its place at the top of the UK albums chart this month. With the success of Tyron, it seems that Slowthai has once again proven to the world that “Hard times made me stronger’ (push).

Dulcie Whadcock

Instagram: @dulcie__x


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