In 2019, Tyron Frampton burst into the music scene with a devilish grin, introducing himself as Slowthai, a UK grime rapper with quick witted commentary on British politics, as heard on his debut album Nothing Great About Britain.
In 2020, the rapper demonstrated his punkish appearance wasn’t just an act when he showed up drunk to the NME awards, relaying inappropriate comments towards presenter Katherine Ryan, while ironically receiving his “Hero of the Year” award. Now, in 2021, with a comeback album titled after his birth name, and released exactly a year after his controversial award show appearance, Slowthai is finally introducing the world to all of TYRON.
Slowthai’s TYRON: A Controversial Comeback
TYRON is a highly anticipated comeback since Slowthai’s controversial award show appearance. While the rapper posted several apology tweets to Ryan and anyone offended by his actions following the infamous night, he subsequently released the unapologetic single, Enemy; a homonym for the NMEs that begins with a sampled audio of the 1975’s Matty Healy commenting on Slowthai’s misbehavior, and features merciless lyrics from Slowthai layered over a jeering beat.
“Rise and shine let’s get it!” begins Slowthai on “45 SMOKE”, the first track on TYRON, in which the rapper arrives in the listener’s ear in his typical in-your-face style fashion.
“45 SMOKE’s” beat incites action, while the rapper proudly announces that “people think [he’s] Satan’s son,” seemingly proving that Slowthai is still doing his ruthless, punk-rap style, and he’s still doing it well.
TYRON’s Side A and Slowthai’s Consistent Style
His playfully aggressive style remains consistent throughout the first half of TYRON. Tracks like “VEX” and “MAZZA,” with their anarchist lyrics coated in an armor of amped up beats remain perfect for mosh pit invincibility. Like a lyrical magician, Slowthai recites words that dance around seemingly simplistic beats that become twisted and mangled as his sadism increases. Meanwhile, the music videos that accompany the tracks show the rapper destroying hotel rooms and serving people burgers drenched in spit while rapping with his signature smugness.
However, it’s the track “CANCELLED,” ft. fellow UK rapper Skepta that steals the show for the first half of the album. While the song is a clear reference to Slowthai’s temporary cancellation following his NME Awards appearance, it isn’t your typical notes app apology. Instead, both Slowthai and Skepta shamelessly boast about their accolades and un-cancellability set to an addictive beat, while the music video depicts them getting away with American Psycho style murders.
Nonetheless, just as it seems Slowthai is carrying on with his anarchy unapologetically, he pulls yet another trick out of his sleeve with the middle track “PLAY WITH FIRE.” Suddenly, his in-your-face rapping backs away to instead give listeners an insight to the rapper’s internal thoughts, layered over beats and chimes that correspond with the track’s introspective tone. “I’m hypersensitive,” the rapper begins, “soft lad, stop acting like a bitch.”
TYRON’s Side B Reveals a New Side of Slowthai
The seven tracks on Side B are a break away from Slowthai’s previous discography. Song titles switch from capitalized to lower-cased words, and while the lyrics deal with similar themes of drugs and violence, they begin to feel more vulnerable than vicious.
In “i tried,” the first track of Side B, Slowthai conveys his thoughts of suicide over an optimistic chorus. The track is more comparable to the thoughtful, psychedelic hip-hop of Kids See Ghosts than Slowthai’s typical grime rap counterparts. However, “push”, featuring singer and friend of Slowthai, Deb Never, is perhaps the biggest diversion from his usual style. The track begins with gentle guitar plucks paired with lullaby-like vocals from Never, who seems to be speaking to both listeners and Slowthai as she advises “the calm comes after the storm, sit back and watch the rain.”
Stripped of his grime style beats and punk armor, Slowthai’s once aggressive ethos functions instead as a raw expression of his experiences, as he raps “See me, I’m erratic on drugs, do stuff I regret, feel embarrassed tomorrow.”
This clear switch of style is one that complicates the unapologetic nature of Side A, causing listeners to wonder if tracks like “CANCELLED” are simply satirical, or an attempt to maintain the character Slowthai established with his previous discography.
Tracks, like “nhs,” enter the realm of somewhat elementary, emotional rap, emphasizing the ways in which Slowthai is still finding a way to voice his vulnerability. Side B of TYRON is a reminder that Slowthai himself has two sides, and is still learning how to express both as he enters the music industry.
Whether he’s presenting a tough exterior or revealing an unsure interior, Slowthai’s voice remains one that resonates with audiences, as TYRON became the top selling album in the UK. He dedicated the win to “anyone who’s in a dark place, or has been there along the journey.”