TYRON by Slowthai

The duality of the U.K.’s most inventive new rapper.

Image source, The FADER

Coming off the high from his 2019 debut Nothing Great About Britain, Slowthai angered the likes of British nationalists. He was an estate kid that grew up with nothing, who hated the establishment of his country and set out to make it known, going so far as to brandish a severed head of Boris Johnson during a live performance. From his punk rock energy to his quirky persona amidst his other stage antics (stripping down to his boxers being a staple.) the album showcased his raw thoughts on the social ills he had gone through, his music came at the right time during the country’s Brexit phase and resonated with its listeners. Topped off with production that ranged from bass-heavy grime to 70’s punk, the Northhampton rapper became a needle in the haystack of U.K. music.

Fast forward to post-Brexit Britain. Slowthai found himself imposed under lockdown like the rest of the world. The rapper would take this time to delve deep into his psyche and work on his sophomore album, leaning more into introspection and looking at himself in the mirror. The result of that is TYRON, an album that explores both sides of Tyron Frampton. Split into two halves, the project showcases the rabble-rousing, loud mouth artist we’ve come to know, while also introducing his more intimate and softer side that reveals the troubles he’s dealt with.

The first half of TYRON will make fans feel at home. With each track stylized in all caps, the first seven tracks provide the most hype moments on the album. “45 SMOKE” kicks things off with its bass-heavy production, Slowthai professes that “the world is mine” in a confident Tony Montana manner. He didn’t come from the best environment, but growing up with alcoholics and drug dealers has made him ready to take on the world. “CANCELLED” with Skepta acts as his attack against cancel culture as a whole. Both artists attack their critics in horror like fashion, Skeppy outshines Slowthai with clever lines like (“Run through the streets with a few G’s, we ain’t killing them softly.”). Having received his fair share of controversy, Slowthai’s sick of those trying to tear him down, especially when he’s trying to become a better man. “MAZZA” lightens things up a bit with its bouncy production as Slowthai trades bars with A$AP Rocky.

“VEX” acts as his angry take on social media, please stop trying to appeal to Slowthai with your expensive clothes and lavish lifestyle. (“I see you’re tryna flex right now, don’t care about you or your Jimmy Choos, I ain’t playin’ kiss chase, I ain’t playin’ duck duck goose.”). He reinstates the fact that fame hasn’t changed him with “DEAD” before ending off the first half of the album with “PLAY WITH FIRE”. The beat becomes more mellow as it sets the tone for the rest of the album. Slowthai throws away the braggadocio and becomes more introspective as he croons on the outro: (“My heart and mind are at war and my soul’s out here playing piggy. In the middle, why do I feel like I’m holding the short straw?”).

From here on out, the songs become pensive and the production is lusher as TYRON starts to really shine. Starting with “i tried”, Slowthai deals with his suicidal idealizations throughout the song’s hook (“I tried to die, I tried to take my life”). He says it in a way as if he’s disappointed with his attempt. On “focus” he tries to pick himself back up as he maintains his attention on why he’s really here, both as an artist and a person. Dominic Fike and Denzel Curry aid Slowthai on “terms”, a ballad about dealing with fame. He’s had his controversial moments and he’s accepted them. No matter what people are going to twist his words, and instead of firing back, he’ll just go with it because it could always be worse.

The acoustic-led “push” is the reminder to himself to keep moving forward, to push for his goals rather than get pulled down the easy route. (“From the bottom, yeah, I climbed a lot and people tryna break my thumbs, what’s good? Be the barber, gotta line it up. When push comes to shove, you gotta push.”). With “nhs”, Slowthai talks about how tragic moments in life will make you more appreciative of the good moments. Its name is an ode to the workers of the National Health Service who’ve been on the frontlines throughout the pandemic in the U.K.

James Blake comes through on “feel away” as both artists deal with their partners leaving them and the fear of their loss. TYRON ends with “adhd” as Slowthai tries to summarise the ongoing battle in his head with the disorder. Slowthai sheds his layers as a way to make those understand what he goes through on a daily basis: (“Tryna protect so I project, deflect and they call it self-defence. Feel the pressure and we all got our reasons, smile on the out, but inside I keep bleedin’.”). He remains in this contemplative state before firing back on the track’s last verse (“Caught in Charlotte’s Web, I can’t feel myself, mind complexity be the death of me. Heavy weaponry at my melon, squeezed I got tendencies, psycho tendencies.”). His mind is all over the place from happy to angry, it’s a track that exemplifies the complicated state of mind Slowthai has to deal with, and I can only hope that he’s doing much better now as evident by the album’s announcement late last year.

TYRON showcases the duality of the U.K.’s most inventive new rapper. The album reminds listeners that he’s bigger than the “Brexit-Bandit” he was labeled as two years ago by expressing the yin and yang of himself. While he still is that rowdy, loud-mouthed grime artist we all know him for as he shows off that side of himself in the first half, he reminds listeners that he is still a person. Becoming more introspective as he details his struggles with fame, confidence, and mental health with the second half of the album. TYRON is evidence that Slowthai has grown both as an artist and a person, he might not be perfect but he’s trying his best.

Essential Tracks: 45 SMOKE, CANCELLED, MAZZA, PLAY WITH FIRE, i tried, focus, terms, push, nhs, adhd.

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Mark Chinapen

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