Favorite Track: "terms" Least Favorite Track: "Cancelled (feat. Skepta)"
Personal growth through mistakes are important moments in the lives of many individuals. It is entirely natural and not out of the ordinary for people to make mistakes; those mistakes do not define who you are. Rather, the way the mistakes are dealt with become where your true colors shine through. In the past, many artists have dealt with this in different ways, not exclusive to the music industry. Take Louis C.K. for example, a comedian who had sexual misconduct allegations levied against him. While the things he did were entirely abhorrent, he later confessed to his actions acknowledging that he had misused his power and that he was aware of the scope of hurt he had caused the people around him. Within the grander scheme of art though, this is often fodder for a new work; a personal revolution of sorts.
Rapper slowthai has not been a stranger to controversy either. In early 2020, he was accused of sexual misconduct by comedian Katherine Ryan at the yearly NME awards. Needless to say, fans and critics alike were disappointed in his actions, and he later apologized on Twitter, telling them to forward their “Hero of the Year” award he had been given (due to the incredible success of his politically charged and revolutionary album Nothing Great About Britain) to Katherine instead of him. He recounted his actions, assessed his misconduct, and attempted to make right with all parties involved.
This deep reflection is an omnipresent theme in his 2021 release TYRON. The record is aptly named, donning slowthai’s real first name and acting as a self-portrait; reflecting both the most brash and brazen aspects and deep, painful, and introspective aspects of slowthai’s diverse personality. Anyone who has listened to his music or seen him in the public eye is well aware that he is a charismatic figure; someone who loves to fly off the handle and say what he thinks, and TYRON examines this as both a personality quirk and a detriment to the greater good of people around him.
TYRON is not only an introspective record that wallows in despair like one might think. The tracklist is essentially split into two parts, separated by the capitalization. On side A, we find tracks like “MAZZA (Feat. A$AP Rocky)” and “PLAY WITH FIRE”, two tracks that thrive on the harsh and charismatic parts of slowthai’s personality. On side B, however, the songs are characterized by introspective thoughts and instrumentals, reinforced by all-lowercase titles like “nhs” and “i tried”. Through this lens, it truly feels as though we are looking at a whole portrait of a man. “My mind and heart are at war, and my soul is playing piggy in the middle.” He says in the final moments of side A on “PLAY WITH FIRE”. “Why do I feel like I’m holding the short straw?” This lyric hits home much harder after listening to the first seven tracks heavily fueled by violent and sexual hyper-masculine bravado, and really drives the idea that slowthai is not just a man who feeds off of stirring the pot; instead, he feels deeply flawed and scared by the person he has become.
He then explores those deep-rooted feelings of fear and inequality on tracks like “push (Feat. Deb Never)”. The song is inspirational, with a stunningly gorgeous chorus contribution from Never. In an interview with Apple music, slowthai stated “‘push’ is an acronym for ‘praying until something happens’. When you’re in a corner, you’ve got to keep pushing. Even when you’re at your lowest. That’s all life is, right? It’s a push.” This sentiment runs throughout the back half of the record, whether he is exploring what it means to be famous on “terms (feat. Dominick Fike & Denzel Curry” or the significant struggle he has with ADHD on the rightfully named “adhd” to close out the record.
As far as instrumentals go, the front half of the record is a tad basic. None of the instrumentals are particularly interesting, utilizing painfully basic melodies and simple trap bass to create some lackluster bangers such as “CANCELLED (feat. Skepta)”. This lack of decent instrumentals on the front half unfortunately leads the record to feeling very bottom-loaded, making it a relatively inconsistent listen as a whole. The back half, however, is brimming with absolutely gorgeous instrumentals employing gorgeous bouts of strings, acoustic guitars, and simple lo-fi drum kits to compliment the somber attitude. The track “focus”, is one of the best tracks on the record, due in part to the absolutely fantastic production courtesy of the amazing Kenny Beats. The instrumental is filled with tight piano chords and pitch-shifted vocal samples, the bouncy drums coordinating with slowthai’s somber but quick-witted vocal delivery.
TYRON, despite being quite a mixed bag, comes out ahead with an incredibly introspective, beautiful, and revealing second half. The self-portrait painted within the record is intriguing and fun, and makes the listener feel as though they are listening to a full perspective of a deeply flawed, somewhat enigmatic figure of slowthai’s nature. While not necessarily living up to the fantastic political imagery painted on Nothing Great About Britain, it is clear that slowthai has narrowly avoided the dreaded sophomore slump many artists are susceptible to after a great debut.