Northampton born and bred, slowthai is the rapper speaking out for a generation of kids who’ve been ignored for too long by the powers that be.
His lyrics are cut through with a rawness and unflinching honesty that has the listener hanging on every elongated word (the slowthai moniker comes from a childhood nickname, born out of friends commenting on his slow, drawled speech). He speaks directly to a generation of kids swinging between anger and apathy at the unsettled times they’ve found themselves born into.
His music is unmistakably British, treading a line between grime, rap, dubstep and garage – riding rough-edged beats with an adolescent charisma and confidence that recalls buzzy pirate radio sessions and handicam freestyles. All of this is encapsulated by live shows that are drenched in sweat and spit and booming with the sound of slowthai’s hooky flows and street-smart bars being chanted back at him.
Born Tyron Frampton, he grew up immersed in music. His mum was just 16 when she gave birth, and her teenage taste in garage and jungle would filter through to the young Tyron.
By the age of 12, he was writing bars and recording sets through a pair of headphones (in lieu of a proper microphone), inspired by the older kids on his estate. He could relate more to the stories they told than those he heard on records coming out of London or rappers from across the Atlantic.
He wears his heart on his sleeve, and his town on his knuckles – literally: he has the ‘NN’ postcode tattooed across his fingers. But being from a small town hasn’t stemmed his ambitions. He wants to be the example that his peers follow to break out of the mindset they’ve had foisted upon them by a society peering down its nose.
His single, ‘The Bottom’, begins with a monologue from long-time producer Kwes Darko/Blue Daisy: “It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from,” he says, “because all around the world there’s a ghetto, all around the world there’s a slum, all around the world there’s a hood, somewhere.” slowthai is speaking to the people growing up in these places.
And people are listening.
The slow-burn success of a handful of singles and EPs released independently online has seen slowthai amass an ever-extending and feverishly devoted fanbase. The slurred opening lines of ‘T N Biscuits’ – “Drug dealah / I wear Nike, not Fila” – have become a rallying cry, while tracks like ‘Jiggle’ and ‘Round & Round’ twist hip hop and grime formulas to something new and intriguing.
His live shows have developed into gritty, punkish affairs and bring a sense of theatre and occasion so often lacking from rappers’ live shows: his debut headline show was hosted in the bowels of London’s St. Pancras Old Church, and recent appearances seen him brought to the stage in a custom coffin. Not that he usually ends up spending much time elevated above his audience, preferring to career topless through the crowd, snarling from the end of a flailing mic lead.
Last year, he featured twice on the Darq E Freaker exec-produced What’s Next mixtape, was invited to perform live at Boy Better Know’s first-of-its-kind takeover of London’s O2 Arena, became a go-to MC for scene-shaping producer du jour JD Reid, and caught the ear of the press both in the UK and stateside – with editors at Complex, Pitchfork and Clash all looking to tie him down.
But he’s far from satisfied. He’s kicked off 2018 with AA-side single ‘North Nights’ backed with the aforementioned ‘The Bottom’, and has begun prepping an album for release next year – by which point he’ll no doubt have a raft of talented youngsters following his lead.