By Josh Templeman, Second Year Politics and International Relations
TYRON, the self-titled sophomore album of British rapper Tyron Frampton, offers a deep and introspective aperture into the life of his notorious character.
An album of two halves, he balances both his brash and boastful persona that we are used to hearing with a far more inward-looking approach, as he documents his internal struggles and shows us that there’s more to his character than meets the eye.
Following the release of his 2019 debut album Nothing Great About Britain, Slowthai saw himself catapulted into the public eye. Through high-profile collaborations with artists such as Brockhampton and Gorillaz, alongside controversial public statements and behaviour, it’s largely where he’s stayed. The album, which began with the line “There’s nothing great about the place we live in” sought to offer scathing socio-political criticisms of the UK and definitely succeeded in doing so. Tackling challenging themes such as class conflict, poverty and nationalism, the Northampton rapper made a polemical yet compelling claim that our nation is great only by name.
TYRON however represents a clear shift from this; leaving political criticisms behind, the album’s focus is clear from its title alone – himself. The album risked being yet another arrogant, egocentric collection of songs we’re used to seeing from so many rappers over the years, yet it’s a much more mature project than that; it’s a project of self-reflection and a representation that his personality is deeper and more fragmented than shown in the public eye.
The album is explicitly split into two halves, indicated by the capitalisation or non-capitalisation of the track’s titles. The first half offers exactly what listeners expect from Slowthai; high-energy instrumentals and braggadocious lyricism that has become synonymous with his music and the ‘bad boy’ persona he has built over the years. Yet the dichotomous nature of TYRON is exacerbated in the second half. It’s hardly new territory for Slowthai, yet he takes a far more mellow approach, with more nonchalant beats and softer, contemplative lyrics that represent the other troubled and introspective side to his personality that many casual listeners won’t be aware of.
The differences between TYRON and Nothing Great About Britain are not only thematic but also sonic and stylistic. The punk influences seen from standout tracks on his previous album such as ‘Doorman’ and ‘Missing’ have been ditched in favour of more contemporary hip-hop instrumentals, and this is clear from the outset. The track ’45 SMOKE’ opens the album with a hard-hitting trap instrumental that complements Slowthai’s equally bullish tones deftly. Using deep, pulsating bass and thunderous drums the track is a real kaleidoscope of sound and a true signal of what is to come on the first half of the album.
This precedes the tracks ‘CANCELLED’ and ‘MAZZA’ in which Ty chooses to bring in two heavyweights of the hip hop world in Skepta and A$AP Rocky respectively. Whilst the two artists bring a sense of infectious energy to the tracks, with Skepta producing snappy bars on cancel culture and Rocky’s tones smooth and satisfying as ever, Slowthai seems to take the back seat on these tracks and unnecessarily so.
No stranger to cancel culture and its effects as a result of his behaviour at the NME awards last year, the track ‘CANCELLED’ offered the perfect opportunity for Ty to take the driving seat and provide a real response to both his own actions and those who sought to ruin him as a result of it. Instead, the choice to allow Skepta to take centre-stage had the stamp of insecurity and hesitance, with Slowthai producing trivial rhymes about Harry Potter or Costa on his disappointingly short verse rather than properly addressing the issue head-on.
The tracks ‘VEX’ and ‘WOT’ represent Slowthai at his very finest. With ‘WOT’ just 48 seconds long, the tracks are short and concise, yet this doesn’t prevent the Northampton rapper from demonstrating his technical ability. Over energetic instrumentals that pull no punches, Ty weaves through the tracks, with sharp flows and brash and brazen statements that allow Slowthai to flex his lyrical muscles - Ty is the engineer and the instrumental his tools on these tracks as he creates heavy-hitting bangers of which beg for replay.
Whilst the first half of the album was a strong return to form, with fierce flows and honed lyricism that we’re used to seeing from the Northampton rapper, the second half produces something truly memorable. Standout tracks like ‘i tried’ allow us to delve deeper into the mind of Slowthai, exploring his childhood dreams and the manners in which they have affected where he is in his life now and such lyrics are matched by gorgeous, distorted background vocals and instrumentals that emit simultaneous feelings of nostalgia and hope.
The self-examining nature of the second half continues throughout, with Slowthai tackling themes of substance abuse, past-mistakes and shame in a manner that is melancholic in places, yet somewhat moving at the same time as we get a deeper vision into his internal demons. Tracks like ‘focus’ and ‘nhs’ are perfect reflections of this and almost seem as if Ty is trying to show us that just as development is seen in the maturity album as it goes on, simultaneously, he has also matured as a person and wants to rid himself of the rash, abrasive figure he often portrayed as by the media.
The final track ‘adhd’ is the perfect reflection of everything TYRON aims to be. Not only is it sonically gorgeous, with low-pitched, pensive instrumentals and tones, it is also a track of raw emotion and struggle as Slowthai pours his heart out through his lyricism. “Sittin’ in a pit, only me and myself/ I can’t deal with the screams only screamin’ at myself”, it’s both a story of past struggles and a call for help, representing perhaps Slowthai’s most personal song to date as he elaborates on the hardships of his condition. It’s a track of loneliness and reflection that provides a stark contrast to the braggadocious nature of the opening track to the album “45 SMOKE”.
By diverting from his typical socio-political criticisms and putting the focus onto his own character, TYRON is without doubt Slowthai’s most mature project so far. The album is introspective, deep and melancholic in places, offering an honest window into the imperfections and struggles the Northampton rapper faces, whilst still maintaining the heavy-hitting style that fans enjoy. His choice to split the album into two segments helps construct a message that there is more than one side to people; that no matter how one may behave on the outside, the actions and statements that people see aren’t always reflective of their inner demons and how they truly feel inside. If there were any doubts that Slowthai could match the heights previously reached in his career, TYRON undoubtedly puts these to bed and cements Slowthai’s place towards the top of the UK hip hop scene.
Featured: Crowns and Owls
Have you listened to the album? Should Slowthai be cancelled?