Northhampton’s Slowthai is a unique artist, with an unmatched charisma and an anti-establishment attitude reminiscent of punk pioneers Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten (who were giving the middle-finger to the crown almost 40 years before Thai’s arrival.) . Despite his charm and cheeky grin, Slowthai carries his fair share of controversies, aiming to ruffle feathers whenever he can—from his debut album title Nothing Great About Britain—to his often in-your-face visuals. Despite making headlines for parading around the Mercury awards with Boris Johnson’s severed head or his scene at the NME awards, it’s not antics alone that have propelled him towards global success—the music he writes is considered, contemplative and thought-provoking.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Slowthai’s newly released sophomore album is named TYRON, a nod to his birth name. The project’s concept is one riddled with introspection, painted against the backdrop of an unforgiving internet climate that is quick to judge and draw conclusions of character. On TYRON, Slowthai explores themes of loneliness and reflection, wrapped up in dark honesty. Despite being a very personal body of work, Slowthai enlists an array of world-class collaborators to assist in telling his story including Denzel Curry, Deb Never, Dominic Fike, A$AP Rocky and Skepta. TYRON’s most potent lesson is not to shy away from life’s ups and downs. The album teaches the audience to embrace our inner mess and to create, evolve and importantly learn from it, as Slowthai says, “love the world for its flaws, you’ll never be disappointed”.
On a zoom call between Australia and The UK, we caught up with Slowthai to chat TYRON, hanging out with Denzel Curry and JPEGMAFIA in Australia and how to stay true to yourself.
Hey Slowthai, last time I caught you in the flesh was at the JPEGMAFIA show in Sydney a couple of years back.
When we was all outside innit? Me and Denzel.
I’ve never been in a room where the energy was so electric. There were these rumours going around before the show that You and Denzel might show up. When you guys ran onto the stage everyone lost their minds. There seemed to be a genuine connection between you three, can you speak on befriending those guys on tour or share any memories from that time?
There are bare stories from that tour, but I’ll share my favourite nice one. We were all doing movie nights on tour. Every night we’d crash someone’s hotel room. Me, Denzel and JPEG were on a roster. Doja Cat ended up coming to my movie night and she shat on it, bro. I put on Trainspotting for the boys and we ordered Thai food. She was looking for excuses the whole time, she said she was hungry so I offered up my red curry. I explained the movie to her and she said she didn’t like sad movies. We tried to explain it was bittersweet but she ended up leaving to go to this party. We decided we’d go to the party because Kwes [Darko] was DJing and she wasn’t even there. She did us so dirty!
Congratulations on releasing TYRON. Obviously, there are a lot of intimate moments on this record, what were some of the challenges in executing the themes and concepts on the album?
I think it’s just doing it, man. Most of the time people just put on that brave face. Actually getting into your emotions and how you feel, being completely real with yourself and everyone in the room. It’s definitely tough but when they’re people you’ve known for such a long time and they’re family. if you can do it to them you can do it to everyone else. It’s all about getting past that first hurdle for me and then it gets way easier man.
Do you think that’s the main reason that these kinds of topics—or even just opening up emotionally is so rarely explored in hip-hop?
I think most people aren’t in touch with that side of their emotions, or if they are, they are afraid to admit it. People do what suits them, and this is what I felt I needed to do. I don’t necessarily feel like opening up like this is for everyone. Hopefully, more people will begin to open up now.
Many people need an external push to break their ego or to wake up emotionally. Some people might never have that experience or are afraid to be vulnerable.
For so many people it’s not about how they’re feeling, but how they look. Each to their own though, I’m happy to be emotionally perched where I am currently.
When did the original idea of creating an album like TYRON come about? Had you always planned on executing an album like this?
This album was meant to be my third album, but due to the time and where I was at I feel like it needed to be now that it came out. It’s been in my head for ages. I think about titles and rough concepts for ages. When I was making Nothing Great About Britain I already had the name and the concept. When I started making the music it naturally started to form with a lot of deep thinking.
On that headspace of why TYRON needed to come out now. Was a part of it trying to shed that wild man persona and highlight a different side of Slowthai?
I suppose, but in my opinion, it was much more internal than external for me. When you’re out there being this fucking energy and you’re just getting fucked up all the time. Facing the other side of that and facing the consequences of that lifestyle and your depressed and your heads all over the place. When you get a minute to come back down to Earth, that’s when I did a lot of reflecting. I felt super lost but also humbled. I was trying to find myself again and get it all off my chest. I was just trying to not feel depressed. Especially when you feel blessed and I was wondering if I had any reason to be complaining. I was at peace in being able to just be myself.
Everyone has dark thoughts, but when you get to that point where your entire days are big dark thoughts something has to change.
There is a diverse range of artists you work with on features on this project. What do you think all the features have in common to make them so attractive to work with?
To start they all smell really good, it’s what attracted me to them. They’re all people I’ve genuinely connected with and built real friendships with. They all helped me through a dark place in unique ways. It only felt right to make music with them after that. It’s all a natural thing, and it has to be natural. If it was forced the songs would be shit. I always try link up first, then eventually make music.
You can tell when it’s an organic connection over a bullshit one. For so many artists there is a disconnect between the features and also even with the production on the record, it really shows.
It’s super important to me. All the producers on the project are people I’ve been around or I was on tour with them, or they’ve joined the family. Everyone’s become family. I try to write the songs with them as much as I can in the same room. Whether it’s in LA, New York, or any city around the world. It’s a family thing, I want to take everyone with me that’s been with me from the start. Its blood, it’s do or die.
When I heard the first half of TYRON, I couldn’t help but feel it had a bit of an A$AP Mob vibe. How did you and Rocky first link?
We first linked in LA. It was one of my first shows out there and he was in the dressing room. In my head, I was so high and was like “what the fuck?” I sat down with Kwes, and we were just wondering why he was there. He came over and was like yo man, is that your album? I just thought “oh my god this motherfucker heard my album”. He said it was fire. I was so high I had no idea what to think. He stayed and watched the show and we just kept linking up. After making ‘Mazza’, I facetimed Rocky and asked if he wanted to hop on it. He was actually in London at the time so we drove down and he just did it, after recording a couple of other things together. We didn’t end up getting the song for ages though, I almost forgot about it. I went to Thailand and while I was there my cousin/manager said Rocky sent over his stuff. I was over the moon, just shouting out “Bloodclaaat. Leshgo. Put the ting on there!”—we were going through it.
We weren’t sure whether it was going on a project until I had this one massage. I remember I had a dream where I went into a cocoon and I came out as a butterfly while I was having this massage. Once I woke up I called my cousin and was like we need to put this tune out. This song is the one, we need to make an album.
How does Slowthai measure success? What impact do you want to be making with the project?
Success for me is when everyone in your family never has to work another day in their lives. With this album I want it to help people with whatever they’re going through. I don’t know what it is, but that would mean the absolute world to me. Just to be able to keep making music, living life. More happiness, more life, more success for me and the people around me.
Follow Slowthai here for more and stream TYRON below.