Slowthai – TYRON Review

The British star shows his more complex and honest side without giving up the brash confidence that propelled his rise. 4 stars.

(Image: Stereogum)

Slowthai has always been a deeply British musician. His last album, Nothing Great About Britain, was an exploration of modern British identity, looking at the darker, often overlooked side of life in the UK. TYRON is certainly a departure from this, with Memphis-inspired beats and enough American features to fill out a Coachella lineup. Despite this, his latest album still holds onto his British roots, engaging with and reflecting on 21st century Britain.

The album decisively splits itself into two halves, Side A and Side B, allowing each side to form its own musical identity. Side A is deeply confident and unapologetic, filled with enough club bangers to almost make you forget you’re in a global pandemic. Side B is more reflective and introspective, often drawing on fears, anxieties and insecurities to paint a more complex picture of the man who made the album.

‘MAZZA’, a tight, trap-influenced song makes all the right moves in its quest to become a club banger. Slowthai’s bragging about being a ‘money fiend’, along with A$AP Rocky’s appearance on the song, revels in its own glory. The trap beat that underlies the song may depart from the typical grime beats that listeners are used to from Slowthai, but it’s refreshing to hear him exploring different styles of music.

He returns to his British roots in ‘VEX’, a song with a raw grime beat and an amazing lyrical flow. With modern media often feeling very clean and focus-grouped, it’s refreshing to hear a lone, loud voice scream ‘PUSSIOOOO’ in the middle of a song.

His characteristic tongue-in-cheek humour hasn’t left him, despite the mature themes that the album explores. Instead, it allows itself to develop alongside these themes. On ‘i tried’, the start of the more reflective Side B, he talks about his anxieties about facing problems in his life, recognising that he’s ‘Running from my struggles back and forth like the Chuckles’. His use of comedy, combined with a newfound reflectiveness seems to indicate a genuine maturing of his already impressive lyrical ability.

Slowthai’s previous work was far more politically influenced than TYRON. His 2019 rise was partly fuelled by his unapologetic views on British politics, especially around Brexit party and the Conservatives. TYRON comes from a more reflective, insular place where he discusses his personal anxieties and troubles, while still referencing cultural events involving him. In ‘CANCELLED’, a bravado-fuelled song featuring British music icon Skepta, he talks euphemistically about his controversial appearance at the NME awards last year, where he was accused of harassing Katherine Ryan. He boasts about having ’20 awards on the mantelpiece’ and appearing on the ‘pyramid stage at Glastonbury’. Slowthai, perhaps under the influence of Skepta, departs from his more typical, slower style of rapping, instead opting to cling tightly to the beat, again developing his skills as a musician.

His typical slower, almost meandering style of rapping makes a number of appearances, most notably on the song ‘DEAD’. A woozy, heavy beat lies underneath his desires for immortality, saying:

‘They can take away my flesh/ They can never take my mind/ I am dead, I am God/ I am here till the end of time’.

These lyrics from Side A conflict with Side B’s ‘ADHD’, a more sombre, reflective song in which he begs: ‘heaven let me in’. These contradicting feelings, which can be seen throughout the album, don’t come across as confusing though. Instead, it adds to the complexity and nuance of the album, allowing his true, messy feelings to come out. His willingness to fully embrace and grapple with the complexities of his life in this way feels honest in an age of curated feeds, and brand identity.

However TYRON isn’t necessarily a perfect album. ‘WOT’, a roughly 50 second long interlude felt unnecessary, acting as a rough, if catchy, transition between ‘MAZZA’ and ‘DEAD’. It could’ve been developed into a full-length song, or it could’ve been dropped; either way, the song felt like it was simply there as filler.

Side A’s songs were also shorter than expected. While they were all fully realised, and overall excellent, they had the potential to be developed further. By no means are Side A’s songs bad. It was a very strong first half, which gave Side B the space to develop. But compared to how complex and honest Side B’s songs were, it’s a shame that more time wasn’t devoted to polishing the first half of the album.

Much of the album was developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an interview with Highsnobiety last week, Slowthai reflected on how it helped shape the album, saying:

“You may not be with all your friends and family, but if you’re happy within yourself and you can just vibe out on your own, what does it matter? That’s kind of the point of TYRON, innit? You gotta be happy within yourself to be who you are, otherwise it’s just bullshit.”

Ultimately, TYRON is a sign of Slowthai maturing, both as an artist and as a person. The heightened complexity of the album, and his willingness to embrace new and interesting genres of music, is indicative of a young artist who wants to become more than the brash, loud rapper that he once was, instead becoming a talented, thoughtful artist who is absolutely worth taking seriously.