UGLY by Slowthai | Album Review
The Brit-rapper embraces his punk persona on his most introspective album to date.
Listen to UGLY by Slowthai: Apple Music | Spotify
Since his 2019 breakthrough Nothing Great About Britain, Slowthai has become the provocateur that the industry needed. His raw energy and thoughtful lyricism painted Tyron Frampton as an authentic character who lived a life full of ups and downs. His 2021 follow-up album TYRON explored Slowthai even further, split up into two parts, the album was a deeply introspective look into his psyche. TYRON was a collection of the rapper’s honest thoughts complete with lush production, a sleeper hit of 2021 in my opinion.
On his 3rd album UGLY (an acronym for “U Gotta Love Yourself”) Slowthai becomes even more introspective and intimate with his audience. He ditches his signature UK grime style in favour of a stronger punk rock sound. UGLY is yet another stellar addition to Slowthai’s well-thought-out and personally driven discography. A self-reflective project that only an artist like Slowthai could make.
This isn’t the first time Slowthai has dabbled in punk before. His breakout single “Doorman” was a pulsating banger that saw him rap over the Mura Masa-produced beat. Aside from featuring on an IDLE’s track, Slowthai’s personality and overall presence just give off an anarchic vibe. So this switch-up on UGLY feels both natural and deserved.
Production-wise, a team consisting of Kwes Darko, Dan Carey, and Jacob Bugden (of Beabadoobee fame) among others helped Slowthai craft this new sonic world. Similar to his previous releases, UGLY shows both sides to Slowthai’s music. His notable high-octane, chaotic energy can be found on the post-punk rhythm of tracks like “Selfish” and “HAPPY”. Whereas his slower and muted side flourishes on “Never Mind” or “25% Club”. While not fully abandoning his Grime roots, as he does rap a fair bit on “Fuck It Puppet”, the bulk of the album gives Tyron more artistic freedom to just do what he wants.
His tone also matches the album’s instrumentals quite well. While he is certainly not the greatest of singers, Slowthai’s signature drawl makes each song feel uniquely human in a way. The sense of dread and discontent can be heard through his delivery of the album’s somber title track. When Slowthai gets yelpy and energetic, you can feel the raw intensity he aims to put listeners through. The anger and rage he conveys as he barks on “Tourniquet” sounds agonizing and unnerving. Perfectly placing listeners into his state of mind.
On his last album TYRON, we merely cracked the surface of Slowthai’s psyche and life. Throughout the course of UGLY, the artist dives deeper into himself. Becoming even more introspective and self-deprecating. The album opener “Yum” immediately sets the tone. Amidst the song’s panicky electro beat and what sounds like somebody hyperventilating in the background, the lyrics shift from an unsavoury visit to his therapist, to a night of hedonism and self-destruction (“More coke, more weed, more E’s, more trip, more evil. More sex, less stress, head yes, what, you wanna be my empress?”). All the while poking fun at repeating positive affirmations to make one happy.
“Feel Good” builds on that idea even further, despite the constant repetition of “I feel so good!” in the chorus, Tyron’s verses shed light on his own self-doubts, contrasting with the song’s uplifting energy. Slowthai’s battle with himself is personified in “Fuck it Puppet”, describing his dark thoughts as a literal puppet that ridicules him. Meanwhile “HAPPY” continues this trend as he contemplates the devil and angel on his shoulder. (“It’s so hard for both sides to commit. Hear the whispers from the angels, positive. How am I swayed by the demons tellin’ fibs.”).
As a storyteller, Slowthai has a knack for effortlessly describing his life and situations. As is the case in “Never Again”. The emotive track details his experience meeting up with a childhood sweetheart. Only to find that she’d moved on from him in the time he spent chasing success. By the song’s grisly end, Tyron feels guilty and vows to never let the chase get in the way of staying with the ones he deems the most important.
At the center of it all, self-love and acceptance are the cruces of UGLY. “Selfish” sees Slowthai embrace his own selfishness as means of regaining his happiness. He encourages those to embrace the ugliness of the world on the title track. On the final track “25% Club”, Slowthai diffuses the idea of finding the missing piece in life to feel whole, in an interview with Apple Music he explains the song’s motif:
It’s about how every person has something in them that’s missing that we’re all in search of–that question of ‘why am I here?’ that we are never going to understand. It’s a thing of wanting and longing, and I don’t think you’ll ever find that missing piece. It’s always going to be 25% missing. The 25% Club is the club where we all reside and you find the person or the thing or whatever it is that makes up that other 25% to make you 100%, to make you complete.
It’s rare to find an artist that stays consistent and improves drastically with every single release. It’s safe to say Slowthai is 3 for 3 right now with UGLY. Finally embracing his punk-rock persona and diving into the genre head-on is both a welcome change and a deserving one for Tyron. Lyrically he’s become even more introspective and emotive, perfectly matching the album’s overall tone.
I’m feeling a very strong 9/10 on UGLY. This might be a premature take right now but I do believe this to be the definitive Slowthai album right now. It captures the very essence of who he is as an artist: A rowdy rebel that deep down has a lot to unpack and tell the world. As one of 2023’s biggest releases of the year, I’m excited to see how well UGLY will hold up as the year continues.
Final Rating: 9/10
Favourite Tracks: Yum, Selfish, Feel Good, Never Again, Fuck It Puppet, HAPPY, UGLY, Tourniquet, 25% Club.