It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a year since slowthai’s meltdown at the 2020 NME awards. If you don’t know, the rapper drunkenly harassed host Katherine Ryan, launched a champagne glass at an audience member and was escorted out of the venue, making the ‘Hero of the Year’ award that NME gave him seem a little bit ironic.
The videos of the event were quite disturbing, and the online backlash came hard and fast, slowthai’s image as an anti-tory, liberal darling ruined as the footage started to circulate online. slowthai went on to return his ‘Hero of the Year’ award, give up drinking, and offer an apology on Twitter. Katherine Ryan herself also showed support for the rapper, stating that he ‘didn’t make her uncomfortable,’ and that she ‘knew he had lost from the moment he opened his mouth.’
It feels like this happened a lifetime ago, occurring in a distant, pre-coronavirus world, but in his sophomore album TYRON, it becomes clear that while we’ve been distracted by Donald Trump, forest fires and the actual apocalypse, slowthai’s been doing a lot of self-reflection.
TYRON is an album of two halves, divided between seven shouty songs titled in ALL CAPS, and seven softer songs titled in silky lowercase. The first half is usual slowthai affair, bars like ‘With no nicotine, Thai’s a monster // you snake slithering, I’m harry potter’ in DEAD drawing from his signature tongue in cheek aggression. The second half is where slowthai covers new ground, the lyrics ‘I tried to die // I tried to take my life,’ in i tried marking a clear shift in tone for a rapper who’s just told me that he’s in the club and he’s dropped ‘an eccy’ with my Mum.
From this point forward slowthai drops the bravado, the rest of the album filled with introspective bars and lofi beats. The songs are clearly a response to the NME scandal, lyrics like ‘do stuff I regret // feel embarrassed tomorrow,’ in ‘push’ acknowledging the rapper’s imperfections,addressing his erratic behaviour and relationship with alcohol.
The standout track comes at the end of the album with ‘adhd,’ the lyrics portraying slowthai’s dual existence as both a ‘tough lad’ from Northampton and a kid with ADHD who’s ‘bleeding’ on the inside. It’s rare to hear a rapper tell his brother that he loves and misses him, but the song’s lyrics do just that. They’re brutally honest and genuinely quite touching, addressing slowthai’s struggles with fame and mental illness.
In TYRON, slowthai openly acknowledges his flaws and goals for self-improvement, managing to flip the lowest point of his career into a beautiful collection of songs. The FIRST HALF of the album maintains slowthai’s edge, but it’s overshadowed by its second half, which reveals the Northampton rapper’s vulnerable side. You can listen to the album on Spotify here.
Featured photo: Edwardx, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons