‘TYRON’ proves that Slowthai is here to stay


Photo by Crowns & Owls.

A couple of years after his breakout debut album, UK rapper Slowthai proves himself as an artist that can engage in higher concepts than some may have thought.

His 2019 album, “Nothing Great About Britain” was a much more harrowing release than it may have gotten credit for. While not explicitly political much of the time, its themes described situations that Slowthai was only put in because of the political climate of Britain at the time. The system that (barely) raised him was at fault in those stories.

On “TYRON,” Slowthai is exploring, well, himself. His debut album may have been about what makes him who he is today, but despite how into the nitty-gritty he got, the focus was more on the forces pushing him into those scenarios.

The album is structured in two parts, exploring opposite sides of the same coin. Yin and yang isn’t a new idea in the rap world, but “TYRON” still makes for an interesting take on it.

Mainstream beats and heavy bass fill the first half with some of the most exhilarating hip hop of the year. On the intro “45 SMOKE,” Slowthai kicks it all off with off-the-wall, Playboi Carti-like inflections and aggressive bars. It sounds like he’s hyping himself up for the rest of the album, and it’s hard not to get hyped with him. 

The following track, “CANCELLED” is great at maintaining the energy with Skepta delivering a great feature — although he’s so prominent that this could easily be mistaken for a Skepta song with a Slowthai feature. 

That being said, it does seem like a blatantly cheap attempt at turning heads with some trendy terminology, especially considering that Slowthai was in some hot water a year ago for his sloppy appearance at the NME Awards. The song is ultimately disconnected from the actual topic of cancel culture, only fueling the frustration. But the song is still fun, so it’s hard to be too mad at it.

From here through “DEAD,” the pace does not let up, delivering hard beat after hard beat. It isn’t until “PLAY WITH FIRE” that Slowthai winds things down. Representing a major tone shift for the rest of “TYRON”, “i tried” is when Slowthai removes the facade. The first half of the album is recontextualized from this point on. I’m not saying that Slowthai is putting up a false front in the first half, but rather that he has a whole other side that is difficult to convey with the weight that it deserves.

Sonically, this crop of songs are much prettier and almost hazy in some serene way. Where the first half may have been a humid club with strobing lights, this is a field of dandelions with just a few clouds to accompany your listening experience. But just because the setting is pretty doesn’t mean that the subject matter is all free-wheeling and good vibes.

His tone and delivery is still electric by most standards, but he takes the time to breathe every once in a while. “nhs” and “feel away” are beautiful and endearing tracks with Slowthai at his most vulnerable, with the latter featuring an album highlight by James Blake on his respective verse and chorus.

Some aspects of the second half don’t quite pan out as well as they could have. Some of the production blends together, keeping a couple songs from standing out as much as they could have. Another thing is the occasional inclusion of pitch-shifted vocals on hooks. Kevin Abstract and Tyler, The Creator did the exact same idea executed similarly to a much greater effect, and they did it years ago. On “TYRON,” it just sounds overdone and I wish that it would get back to the verses sooner.

Despite these minor issues, Slowthai’s “TYRON” is probably the best hip hop to come out in 2021 so far. He has the variety, the bars, and the energy that has made him so interesting in the first place. This new album is something on par with “Nothing Great About Britain,” which is a pretty damn high standard.

Score: 8/10

Thomas Stremfel can be reached at [email protected] or @tomstremfel on Twitter.