Slowthai has to be one of the weirdest yet most unique rappers to ever come out of the UK and that's why I was super excited for this album. UK Punk music has been evolving greatly over the past decade with bands like shame and IDLES keeping the spirit alive, and while Slowthai might not be punk rock in the traditional sense, he does really carry that energy. If you can't wrap your head around that, just listen to the song doorman from his first full-length album Nothing Great About Britain. The punk energy on the song is insane with the distorted, pulsing bass and Slowthai's vocal delivery on the song is super angry and super brief too. Listening to the song makes me want to rob my own house. And ever that first album, Slowthai has been on an insane hot streak. From his collaborative track with Denzel Curry, PSYCHO, a song that I almost died in a mosh pit too, to his feature on the Gorillaz song Momentary Bliss which went over waaaaaay better than I expected it to. So much so that it ended up at #6 on my Best Songs of 2020 list. Then the promotional cycle to this album started which boosted my hopes up even more. The lead single to this album, feel away, featuring James Blake and Mount Kimbre blew me away on first listen. I love the lo-fi and delayed piano in the beat and even though I wish the trap drums were replaced by some live instrumentation, it still doesn't take away from the song. Also worthy to mention is how great James Blake's vocal performance on the song is but to be fair, James Blake could sing on top of a Merzbow song and make it sound beautiful.
There's also the song nhs which has some of the most compelling lyrics that Slowthai has ever penned singing about how you have to have bad experiences to get to the good, singing:
What's a flight without turbulence?
A life without circumstance?
Boxing without another stance?
Country with no coat of arms?
Estate with no dogs that bark?
There's also a line on here about fixing your flaws where he sings, "Always had the bum knee, you will always be chubby / If you suck in your tummy, when you're starin' at the mirror." I also really love the line on here where he says, "A rapper without jewelry? A real person surely," saying that while a lot of rappers try to project this larger than life image when you look behind the smoke and mirrors, they're still a normal person with normal everyday struggles. The last single I listened to MAZZA confirmed a theory I had going into this album that the songs with all caps in the title would be more energetic and go a little harder while the songs that were all lowercased would be softer, a little more mellow too. But back to MAZZA, the song is a banger, no question. Slowthai's energy on this song is great and the beat almost reminds me of something that might have turned up on Playboi Carti's Die Lit. There's also a great A$AP Rocky feature who starts his verse off with a fantastic line rapping, "Olive, body shaped like a bottle / Popeye off of spinach." I don't think I've ever heard a bad A$AP Rocky feature so this is just another trophy on the mantle for him.
So going into this album, I had reasonably high hopes. I was expecting Slowthai to deliver and I was hoping that there would be more songs in the style of nhs and feel away. I was also excited to hear some of the other unreleased features on the album, most notably Skepta and Denzel Curry. So, after multiple listens, I think I'm gonna have to make a bold claim here. ahem. I think this is the best album of 2021 so far. On this album, Slowthai has really come into his own as an artist. Across the 14 songs on this album, I have very, very few nitpicks and problems with this album. It's very consistent, I don't think there's a single bad song here, and most importantly, Slowthai continually kills it all over this album.
45 SMOKE is like a kick in the teeth to open the album. I can just picture being at a show and fearing for my life the second the beat drops in, it's made for moshing and jumping too. There's also his delivery on the song which is full of energy while he raps lines like "I never walk alone like Merseyside," or one of the final lines on the first verse, "Keep doublin', tryna multiply / Money to me like sh*t for a fly." CANCELLED with the Skepta feature I mentioned earlier has one of the hardest hooks on the album with Skepta rapping, "How you gonna cancel me? / Twenty awards on the mantelpiece / Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury / Girls in the crowd got their hands on me." If that little blurb didn't make it obvious, the song takes aim at cancel culture, pretty much saying, "Why are you gonna let me accomplish all this stuff and then try to take it away?" This is more than likely a reference to Slowthai's incident at the NME Awards last year where after receiving the "Hero of the Year Award," some dirty jokes led to Slowthai almost fighting an audience member who called him a "misogynist." And look, I'm not a 100% supporter of cancel culture. Incidents like Slowthai's or incidents where someone said something stupid 30 years ago should be forgiven and shouldn't ruin someone's career. However, when you get into some of the more extreme cases like Chris Brown or more recently, Armie Hammer, I think it's fair to strip someone of all they've accomplished, but that's beside the point. Slowthai's verse on the song has some great one liners, especially the opening line where he raps "I ain't an actor, f*ck the Oscars / Main stage in my boxers." I also love the rhyme scheme of the lines:
Ayy, she said I do magic
Like Harry Potter, I'm off the vodka
Orderin' lobster, said it's preposterous
I'm so obnoxious, I need a doctor
VEX is a song about fake people or people who look for validation via social media. There's a hilarious line in the first verse where Slowthai raps, "Can't be my slime, I don't roll with eels." But the rest of the song is great. Slowthai's flow on the song is smooth as butter and the beat slaps. The booming bass and tight drums on the song are fantastic as well. And besides that eel line, there are some other great bars all over the song, especially near the end of the second verse where he raps:
Calm down, darling, your poom poom's loose
I see you're tryna flex right now
Don't care about you or your Jimmy Choos
I ain't playin' kiss chase, I ain't playin' Duck Duck Goose
Can tell that you ain't got a clue
WOT quickly follows this and this song is one of my few gripes as I need this song to be longer. It clocks in at only 50 seconds but it packs a mighty punch in that time. DEAD has a really slick vocal sample in the chorus and I love the piano that's laced into the beat as well. Once again, Slowthai bridges the gap between serious and funny, opening up the song by saying, "See me posted up with a bimbo." I also like the lines about how money changes people saying "When it's ugly change for money, see that they ain't got no spine / People change for money, what's money with no time? / Say it once, say it once, yeah, everybody dies." I also like how tough he portrays himself in this song saying "No one here ever can knock my posture / I stand tall, you ball, curl up and sob, bruh." PLAY WITH FIRE ends the first half of the album and it bridges the gap between discs perfectly. Lyrically, it's the beginning of Slowthai getting a little deeper, more introspective. It's the "look behind the curtain moment" I mentioned about the song nhs. I love the pitch-shifted guitars on the song and the synth line throughout the verses is a really tasteful touch. It almost feels like a BROCKHAMPTON song at times, I can picture Matt Champion and Joba spitting on top of this instrumental. While there are some funny lines, there's also plenty of lines that show Slowthai shedding his ego and realizing he's not a mountain among molehills. I really like the line about how "a chain's only as strong as its links" and it's hilariously followed up by Slowthai saying that "the coke makes the cats look like they're Jar Jar Binks, top it off with a wink." There's a little beat switch that leads to what sounds like you're stuck inside Slowthai's head as all of these different lines sort of piling on top of each other. It's a chaotic end to the first half but it works out.
i tried has some of the most beautiful production on the album with some great guitar samples, some upright bass, and some super crisp drums. Lyrically, Slowthai is singing about how even though he has this level of fame and is at the top of his game, he still doesn't know where he's going and feels lost, opening up the song by saying, "long road, took a tumble down this black hole." I also really like the final few lines of his verse where he says:
Running from my struggles back and forth like the Chuckles
As morbid as it seems, I'll never wake up from this sleep
If Hell's meant for sinning, Heaven's never been for me
The song focus features production from Mr. Kenny Beats and Slowthai might have even made a new producer tag for him saying at the beginning of the song, "Kenny, you're mad for this one." In the song, Slowthai is singing about how even though he portrays himself as being super tough and a drug dealer, he's still never wanted to end up in jail or dead. He describes it as telling himself "just focus on some other sh*t." I love the line about how the lesser version of himself, or him in a normal state is the cinderella that fits into the shoe. I also love the lines where he says "Said I'd be nothing, you must be Helen Keller / Under the weather, can't predict my future / Off the Richter and he crazy like Victor." terms was the song I was most excited for considering that Dominic Fike and Denzel Curry both were featured on the song but if you're going into the song expecting Denzel to spit, you'll be disappointed, just like I was. Rather than a verse, there are just some pitch-shifted vocal snippets that pop up during the chorus which I've warmed up to but I'm still salty that Denzel couldn't spit. Dominic Fike's chorus is fantastic, singing about coming to the terms of being famous and Slowthai's flow on the song is just unrelenting with some great rhymes and a stone-cold delivery. The beat is super spacey and atmospheric, it's borderline transcension material.
push features Deb Never who I was sort of familiar with due to a great performance on BROCKHMAPTON's last album with the song NO HALO. Her performance on the song is super soft, super dreamy, it almost reminds me of Little Dragon at sometimes. I love the acoustic guitars that drive the beat and the nice trap drums as well. Once again, Slowthai comes through super introspective. The line about selling drugs to get richer is like getting "a royal flush on a river" is super clever, pretty much saying that's it's super high risk but super high reward. I also really love the line "He drowned, got baptized, oh well, I guess that's life." I didn't think I would say this but in the context of the album, I think I enjoy nhs and feel away even more than I already did. If I loved these songs before, I adore them now. The album ends on the song adhd which is Slowthai rapping about his struggles with the disorder and it's a really emotional and vulnerable moment to end the album on. The lines about how he's trying to get a grip before slipping and melting stings, even more so the line right after where he says "Sittin' in a pit, only me and myself
/ I can't deal with the screams, only screamin' at myself." The shots at himself continue throughout the 2nd verse with lines like "Overthink, sink in my seat / Eat, sleep, repeat, what you know about T?" and one that cuts deep in the middle of the verse where he raps:
Slave to the progress
I obsess 'cause I ain't got control yet
I'm tryna fly but my wings feel broken
An eagle encaged in a closure
There's a little interlude near the end of the song where Slowthai calls (allegedly) his brother who is currently incarcerated, telling him that he loves him and misses him every day he's not around, it's another really sweet moment. On the final verse, he sort of comes unhinged with an angrier delivery before he calms down for the album's final moments.
Once again, I just have to say that this album is fantastic and I can't find too many flaws here. Maybe I should've come to expect this level of quality from him but I'm still blown away by how well-produced and how enjoyable this album is. The beat selection all over the album is great and the difference between Side A and B of this album goes over much better than I expected it to. While I do love when Slowthai jumps on a grimey, energetic banger, it's the softer and more vulnerable moments of this album that really let all of Slowthai's talents shine. And while I don't expect Slowthai to make a full album of soft songs anytime soon, I wouldn't reject it.
I would rate
Tyron is available wherever you stream or buy music. Clear Vinyl is available at your local independent record store, standard black vinyl is available everywhere else, a link to purchase online is HERE.