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slowthai: TYRON

The press release for TYRON detailed the metaphor of the apple adorning the album’s cover, opening the door for other alimentary allusions. The Buddha bowl is a dish of various textures, colours and heats that balances each ingredient to maximize flavour via contrast and complement. TYRON then has one ingredient, an apple. An apple sliced into two halves – one moldy and the other filled with worms – and cored. By separating into two distinct personas slowthai flattens himself. The combination of grime, punk and purpose that electrified Nothing Great About Britain are absent on TYRON. Its flavours consist of mold and earthworms.

TYRON is slowthai’s rebuttal to the controversy surrounding the rapper following his debut. Nothing Great About Britain was a biting depiction of the faulty systems upholding England. The aura of a delinquent soon formed around the Northampton rapper because of his antics outside of his art. He brandished a phony decapitated head of British PM Boris Johnson at the 2019 Mercury Prize ceremony and had to defend himself from claims of misogyny following a sloppy interaction with comedian Katherine Ryan and a confrontation with a vocal audience member at the 2020 NME Awards. So while his last LP articulated how a mixed race youth could tumble through the cracks by inhabiting multiple viewpoints, TYRON finds slowthai staying in his head, content to discuss himself, filling the boots of both a hooligan and a martyr. Whereas Nothing Great About Britain had characters, TYRON has caricatures.

The first half of TYRON pounds. The deep production is a concrete backdrop for slowthai’s smoking gun. “WOT” reverberates with a meaty bass and slowthai spits so hard his saliva penetrates the speakers. He gallivants through varying rhythms and inflexions on “MAZZA,” almost compensating for his non-presence on the Skepta-dominated “CANCELLED.” On the punchy “VEX” he leans into his peculiar accent to embody the sniveling hooligan he’s been painted as. It’s the closest this record comes to the dingy punk of Nothing Great About Britain. The skulking beat of “DEAD” and the mumbled chorus, compounded with slowthai’s assured pronunciations, puffs out its chest like a badge of machismo. It’s on this first half that slowthai rides verbosity and aggression to distract from the dearth of cutting lyrical content. The dismembering of English society is replaced with threats, violence and threats of violence.

While slowthai compensates for TYRON’s homogenous braggadocios first half with adroitness, he lathers himself in a garb of thin sentimentality in the second. His attempts to communicate his sensitivities neither endear nor inspire. The only two tracks to defy this malady are “i tried” and “focus,” whose stripped-back aesthetics capture an innocence slowthai rarely exudes. But these are exceptions amidst a minefield of missteps in which slowthai gravitates between miserable puppy dog and motivational speaker addressing middle schoolers minutes before lunch break. Lyrically his sentiments orbit the realm of empty affirmational platitudes while leaving a gap his character work should have filled. The acoustic indie folk guitar of “push” coagulates underneath slowthai’s overtly pleading tone. On his attempt at a lovesong “feel away,” slowthai is outshone by the featured artist. As soon as James Blake graces the track with his serene vocals he scrubs the rapper clean from memory. “nhs” is a gauntlet of groaners where each line flounders more than the preceding: “What’s love without hate and stuff?/ Loyalty without no trust?/ Rick without Morty?/ Lil Wayne without codeine?/ A rapper without jewelry? Real person, surely/ What’s health without poorly?/ What’s wealth without the poor? Please.” slowthai concludes with this proclamation: “The world we’re living in, I’m tryna give you reassurance,” a statement vapid of anything indicating slowthai didn’t pilfer it from a self-love pamphlet.

By dividing the British brute and the forlorn youth, slowthai spreads himself too thin. His hyper-masculinity possesses no vulnerability and the pensive approach is undercooked. Contrast that with his debut where his personality permeated his observations of British culture. His position in the portrait of Britain reflected character. His narrative lens carved an image of what he survived and its lasting effects. On TYRON he robs himself of nuance informed by texture and contrast.

By dividing the British brute and the forlorn youth, slowthai spreads himself too thin.
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Nothing Great About Tyron
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