It is no secret that Tyron Frampton (known “Slowthai”) has thrived off trauma in writing music. His show-stopping debut album “Nothing Great About Britain” not only tackled his personal trauma of growing up in an impoverished single-parent household, but also the societal trauma felt by millions of young people in growing up in the times of Tory austerity. Therefore, in a year of on-stage altercations and pandemic-related isolation, it is perhaps no surprise that Northampton’s favourite son has responded with a heartfelt and passionate record.
Even before Britain as a whole descended into a rush for toilet roll and developed a love-hate relationship for Joe Wicks, Slowthai had already had a rough start to 2020, arguably of his own making. The NME awards in mid-February saw a very drunk (possibly mixed with a few other chemicals) Frampton act in an inappropriate way around comic Katherine Ryan. What followed was a chaos of threats, thrown objects and a brave team of security guards trying to restrain the rapper.
After issuing an apology days later, presumably after his hangover had worn off, Frampton began writing and recording the album during the first lockdown. It is crafted, most likely in an intentional way, with a clear A and B side. The first three or four songs would probably fit nicely on his first record, if perhaps a tad on the “clout-chaser” side with clearer American influences than before. Yet, he remains musically riotous, but distinctively eloquent in his lyrics. They are the type of tracks made for mosh pits and coked-up kids, charging at one another in care-free liberation. With such affable energy and charisma, despite your views on Slowthai, the tracks are listenable at the least.
However, the second half of the album is Frampton demonstrating a side he has not really shown before. His debut record “Nothing Great About Britain” was laced with “laddy-ness” and bravado where, although he acknowledged personal struggles, he was cautious to show major vulnerabilities. The second half of “Tyron” is almost as if it is coming out of a confessional booth, with candid and accepting lyrics of his own failures. For example, on a lo-fi beat in “focus”, he proclaims “No second chance, I’ve just gotta be better”. This self-deprecating honesty is something that was absent in the first record, certainly showing a more reflective side to Slowthai, a far cry from his grinning Instagram stories and his explosive life performances.
There is no doubt that Slowthai’s 2020 has forced him to grow as a person. Of course, the artist is only 26 and has suddenly been catapulted into stardom and wealth, so it is inevitable that he is going to do things he will later regret. He has also, seemingly, begun to tackle his psychological demons. When he released “Feel Away”, the single featuring James Blake, he dedicated the track to his stillborn younger brother, someone that not even the most loyalist Slowthai fan knew about. Yet, whilst I think the album is very good both musically and as a form of repentance, there are of course some moral issues with me singing its praises. If Slowthai had not behaved how he did that fated night in February, he may not have released such a heart-felt and critically acclaimed album. Is he, then, capitalising off his mistakes? Or, even worse, capitalising off being the perpetrator of sexual misconduct? There also still seems to be anger in Slowthai’s attitude towards that the reception of his actions that night too. The early track “CANCELLED” featuring Skepta is an attack on “cancel culture”, a cesspit that Slowthai managed to avoid by the skin of his gold-encrusted teeth. Whilst it is good to see a young man connect with his feelings and show remorse for his detrimental actions, I’m not sure whether Slowthai is entirely ready to abandon his “bad boy” image altogether yet.
Perhaps I’m nit-picking here. It is a very good record, with the highs and lows that accompany an album of real class and intelligence. With more fuel to add to his live setlist, which is already a fire perhaps out of control, Slowthai has equipped himself with the weapons needed to continue to win over the hearts of the youth.