Slowthai is a 26-year-old rapper from the United Kingdom. Blowing up in 2019, he received a lot of recognition due to the successes of his debut album Nothing Great About Britain. After a relatively quiet 2020, we finally heard from him last weekend with the release of his second LP, TYRON. With features from A$AP Rocky, Denzel Curry, Skepta, and more, will Slowthai be able to create his best record to date?
Over its 14 tracks and 35 minute run time, the record is divided up into two parts. As the first half goes, Slowthai channels his inner psychopath to make some of the most captivating bangers I’ve heard in a long time. The intro, “45 SMOKE,” sets the perfect tone with its hectic vocals and even crazier lyrics alluding to the British stars greatest thrills. Moments like “VEX” and “DEAD” keep this same energy but with little to no differentiation. Recorded around the time Pop Smoke passed away, “WOT” was the definite standout of this group due to the raw anger and bitterness that possessed Thai when mourning his deceased contemporary. Through cuts like these, the overall dense subject matter and occasional corny line make Slow’s pen game feel pretty average, but his unmatched mic presence and one-of-a-kind flow minimize this issue. On the emotional side of things, “PLAY WITH FIRE” serves as a crucial turning point for Slowthai as his remorseful headspace lets him come face to face with his inner demons. Through all these passionate statements, the 26-year-old is at his best when collaborating. Whether it’s Skepta on “CANCELLED” or A$AP Rocky on “MAZZA”, the presence Slow prides himself with forces both of these respected MCs to think outside the box and deliver performance above their usual status quo. Aside from a few minor flaws, TYRON’s opening leg does a fantastic job at building up tension for a powerful second half.
Emphasized through the lowercase song titles (opposed to the first halves tracks being in all capital letters), it’s clear the LP’s ladder portion holds most of the emotional weight. This principle only becomes more transparent when taking in the heartfelt cries for help on the suicide-ridden “i tried” and the man vs. self struggle of the Deb Never collaboration “push”. From searching for his true purpose on “focus” to feeling empty due to an array of personal losses on “adhd”, the depth and pain within each bar Slowthai exerts is truly heart-wrenching. Despite its integrity, some of the worst cuts on the body of work reside here. Slowthai’s corny lyricism ruins the otherwise solid “nhs” and the James Blake collaboration “Feel Away” breaks the album’s otherwise seamless flow. Teaming up with Florida natives Denzel Curry and Dominic Fike on “terms”, the three artists bring out the best in each other as they deliver intertwined performances that add to the song’s narrative about self-acceptance. As a whole, the record’s closing leg may come with its issues, but it’s still one of the most well-put-together depictions of the struggle with mental health in hip hop’s recent history.
Behind the boards, the entire score is handled super carefully, and it shows. No matter the style Slowthai dives his feet into, each instrumental perfectly complements the various aesthetics he embraces. Whether it’s the intense trap beats of “CANCELLED” and “WOT” or the poppy lo-finess of “i tired” and “feel away,” the array of producers involved in the LP take their job very seriously. The way the hard-hitting drums match the insane aggression of “VEX” or the chopped-up vocals create suspense leading into the climactic “DEAD” are A-1 examples of the well-asserted dynamic between Slowthai and the musical support backing his every move. Another notable quality within the soundscape are the occasional beat switches which do a splendid job connecting the UK rapper’s ideas and also notting together the entire experience. Overall, when it comes to what hip hop has had to offer us in 2021 so far, there are few projects better produced.
In conclusion, TYRON is another good entry in Slowthai’s ever-growing catalog. The amount of passion and raw emotion he pours into each second sets him apart from most acts today, but he still lacks certain artistic aspects that would elevate him into hip hop’s elite. Going forward, if Slowthai can refine a few elements in his game while also keeping his intensity at the same level, his next release will be a definite classic.
- So much emotion/passion
- Versatile experience
- Both sides feel distinct and bridge together well
- Great features
- Great production
- Songwriting can be lacking at times
- A Handful of corny bars
- Some songs feel too similar
Written by: Marc Dator
Scored and edited by: Marc Dator founder and owner of Fantastic Hip Hop