A Polarizing Show of Two Sides of One Rapper: A Review of Slowthai’s ‘TYRON’

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TYRON develops Slowthai's introspective voice, but fails to deliver it consistently throughout its runtime.

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Slowthai‘s newest album, TYRON, splits itself into two polarized records of differing quality, dealing with the complicated mind of Northampton’s biggest star.

The first half of the album is rugged, opinionated, and repetitive. Slowthai indulges in the swaggering machismo of grime, perhaps to the point of boredom. The record opens with ’45 SMOKE’, where Slowthai claims that world is his – and not much else. From there we move to ‘CANCELLED’, which features Skepta for a large portion of it’s verses that ask ”how you gonna cancel me?”. Musically, ‘CANCELLED’ is almost indistinguishable from ’45 SMOKE’, and doesn’t seem to add much to the narrative. While perhaps aiming to promote rising above hatred and petty cancel culture, the lyrics instead seem tone-deaf when considering Slowthai’s own misogynistic controversies from last year’s NME awards, which he seems to brush aside on this track.

What ’45 SMOKE’ and ‘CANCELLED’ fail at, ‘VEX’ partially makes up for. This track is fast-paced and energetic; Slowthai’s quick delivery brings some much-needed depth. The lyrics explore his ‘tortured’ mind, which he attributes to be a product of his past which always left him wanting more.

One of the better songs from the first part of the record is ‘MAZZA’, which features A$AP Rocky for a catchy, melodic track. The song succeeds in not taking itself too seriously – Slowthai prides himself on not caring what other people think here, and it works. However, it still fails to capture the strength and depth that fans know Slowthai is capable of.

The harsh boastfulness of the first half is brought to a close by ‘PLAY WITH FIRE’. Slowthai whispering ‘I’m hypersensitive’ at the beginning of the track signals a much-needed move to more personal themes – introspection, self-acceptance, and vulnerability.

The second half of the record is sonically softer, but lyrically stronger. On ‘I tried’, Slowthai ponders on the scars of his past that made him what he is today, concluding that ”if hell’s meant for sinning, heaven’s never been for me.” This religious imagery carries through onto ‘focus’, where Slowthai takes a ”slowdance with the devil”, confronting his problems and promising to himself to ”be better”. It is through this introspection that we begin to see a new side to the artist that had been previously hidden – one who is resolute in his self-worth, and open to the truth.

TYRON also sees Slowthai engage in more collaborations that his previous album. ‘terms’ gets it’s chorus from singer Dominic Fike, who sings ”I woke up and came to terms with it, no matter what they get my words twisted”, commenting on the inevitable problem of misinterpretation of an artist’s words. ‘terms’ shows Slowthai’s versatility; this sultry, slow, electronic sound is not something we have previously seen him participate in.

The versatility only progresses from this point, as the album culminates in it’s four storngest tracks. ‘push’ features soft acoustic guitars and sweet vocals from Deb Never, as Slowthai remisces on the past that he climbed up from into success. ‘nhs’ encourages listeners to take a breath to stop feeling ‘microwaved’ all the time, and sees Slowthai return to the themes from Nothing Great About Britain, criticising the hypocrisy of Britain and it’s rampant inequality. ‘feel away’, by far the best collaboration on the album, features James Blake and Mount Kimbie to create one of the most poignant songs on the album. The track sounds very typical of James Blake, featuring repeating piano riffs, soft trap beats and pitched vocals, but becomes even better with Slowthai’s quietly emotive verses. The ending track, ‘adhd’, summarises all the feelings from the second half: here Slowthai is vulnerable, emotive, and powerful.

By the end of the second half, you’ve almost forgotten the boisterous version of Slowthai that you encountered at the beginning, and it is this which reduces the overall quality of the record. The two halves are so jarring in theme and delivery that they sound out of place side by side. Slowthai’s ability to convey his emotions to his listener is powerful, but this is reduced by the repetitive and uninspired boastfulness of the first half of the album.

TYRON is out today via Method Records. Watch the video for ‘nhs’ here:

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