24-year-old Northampton rapper Slowthai is about as hotly tipped as they come: he’s featured across your favourite publications, a host of 2019 ‘Ones To Watch lists and has been shortlisted in the BBC’s Sound Of… poll. With mammoth buzz comes mammoth responsibility. Fortunately for Tyron Frampton, armed with his theatrical cadence, menacingly textured grime production and disruptive, political rhymes, Slowthai bounds comfortably into his appointment as prince of the under-protected.
After his steady stream of strong releases for the past two years, including two EPs and numerous singles, this is a debut record that dares to dismantle ill-informed nationalism, rebuke fetishisations of working-class culture and speak candidly about dire reality facing so many disenchanted Brits – all while offering solace in vulnerability and charisma. Here Slowthai has succeeded in crafting a unique – yet varied – voice for himself, one that’s both urgent and completely energising.
Re-contextualised in their position at the start of the album, the previously released title track and the punk-influenced single ‘Doorman’ sound rejuvenated, a malevolent tone and lyrics evoking images of quintessential Britishness only to prove them farcical at best and wholly deceptive at worst. ‘Dead Leaves’ acts as a non-linear origin story for the rapper: it’s jagged, dynamic and punctuated with rattling guitars as Slowthai declares, ‘Tyron for PM!’.
‘Grow Up’, featuring Birmingham MC Jaykae, is an exhilarating meeting of Midlands minds, as the pair go head-to-head to deliver razor-sharp lyrics to shatter the stigma around the bleak prospects they faced in council estates (and mention the tragic impact of inflation on the price of the 99p Flake). In fact, the strength of Slowthai’s own material – and its refreshing detachment from all things London-centric – may be what renders the otherwise-trademark Skepta bop (‘Inglorious’) surprisingly superfluous, placed in the middle of the tracklist.
At times, admittedly, the metaphors of Broken Britain do land pretty squarely on the nose. On Slowjam ‘Crack’, Slowthai exclaims, “I love you like a crackhead loves crack!” But even in those moments, what you’re listening to is authentically and honestly Slowthai in all his garish glory. Guiding you on a whistlestop tour of his life, community and resultant beliefs, the record serves not only as a statement of identity, but also an indication of the sprawling possible paths for his career to grow into.