Primavera Sound festival, Barcelona, Spain, May 31, 2019
It’s a funny coincidence that Tyler Frampton, aka slowthai, shares a surname with a world champion boxer. Much of the Northampton rapper’s live show plays out like a boxing match, with Frampton pacing the stage in his pants, warming up in the ring. Kwes Darko (his DJ, producer, and hype-man) joins him in the fray. Together, they chuck up bars and lurch at the crowd, baying for blood.
The energy is totally infectious. Mosh pits erupt for ‘Doorman’, slowthai’s punk-rap collaboration with Mura Masa from his brilliant album, which paints a vivid picture of a raucous night out. Moments later slowthai sprints off stage. Has “King Whitey” (a lyric taken from his cutting commentary on Brexit Britain, debut album title track ‘Nothing Great About Britain’) lived up to his reputation? You bet. “I’ve got to be honest with you, yeah,” slowthai says, returning to the stage. “I just puked up.” He’d spoken earlier of smoking maybe a little too much skunk but it was his hasty glugging of “too much water” that brought everything back up. Not that the incident takes away from the performance. If anything it sharpens its rawness.
‘T N Biscuits’, his breakout 2018 single that turns prissy perceptions of Britishness on its head, sounds huge live with mushrooming sub-bass swells and jittering beats. Slowthai asks the audience to form another “circle of friends” for fans to bounce inside like whizzing pinballs. Darko often matches slowthai for crazed energy, if not going even further, frequently chucking pints into the crowd like it’s his involuntary tick.
It says a lot that the turnout at the Pitchfork stage is as strong as it is with 5am fast approaching. There’s a tangible sense in the air that people have waited all weekend for this raucous, politically-charged event (slowthai’s call-and-response “Fuck Theresa” is one such celebrated feature of the set). We leave thinking only, that Frampton’s a champion.