Smiling, nude in a pillory is how slowthai was initially presented to the world. His 2019 debut Nothing Great About Britain was a politically boastful blend of indie and pop sentiments. His vocals were harsh but behind them were jagged views from the ground floor. Drug use, sex and race get mashed together on one singular dancefloor. Slowthai voices the plight of a conflicted, mix-raced population in a country that considered itself the center of the world in the past. While his debut was a response to broader issues in the UK, his follow up Tyron is unmistakably candid. Slowthai, born Tyron Frampton, peels back the curtain to show the tender side of modern grime. Contrasting the sarcastic image of the first album, this record features him nestled nicely under a tree rich with fruit. This apt change of scenery is indicative of a positive trend upward.
Similar to Nothing Great, Tyron is broken into two pieces. However, unlike the debut, the formula has been refined and handled much more appropriately here. The first, heavier side is packed with ALL CAPS song names and features from Skepta and A$AP Rocky. The ideas aren’t as nuanced but its still good reckless fun that slowthai has gleefully embraced. “CANELLED feat. Skepta” is a tongue and cheek bop, borrowing heavily from the trap toolkit. A simple flute and high hat are all thats needed for Frampton and company to demolish the opposition. There’s a notable punk influence on this first half with brief cuts like “45 SMOKE” and “WOT”. The latter is a door rattling interruption. The synths shimmer in the back while a grimy chant propels the track forward. “PLAY WITH FIRE” has a clever line about cokeheads talking like Jar-Jar Binks that’s a just the perfect kind of weird.
The second, softer side is absolutely gorgeous. Tyron’s abrasive delivery floats nicely over cloudy production from Kenny Beats and Mount Kimbie. Deb Never and James Blake provide a tender vocal contrast to slowthai’s particular jargon with “push” and “feel away” respectively. It’s nice when his topics stray away from the usual drugs and violence to something softer. The melancholy “nhs” is dedicated to the National Health Service but is not without his signature playful approach, “Rick without Morty, Lil Wayne without codeine? A rapper without jewelry? Real person surely.” Although a delight, the second half does a heel turn at the end with “adhd”. Instead of ending the record on a completely somber note, it retreats to the same delinquent energy we’re familiar with slowthai doing. Simply put the album feels uncertain of itself in those final moments, but it raw none the less. Tyron may not be perfect, but it’s a strong personal statement from an artist still evolving.