Knocks on the Doors of Greatness
By FILIP DROZDZ | October 27, 2019
Cover photo from “Nothing Great About Britain” album cover
The photo present on the cover of slowthai’s debut album was taken on the Spring Boroughs estate, where he lived as a baby.
Slowthai was the eldest of three, raised by a teenage mother. He was an outcast, constantly labeled as a “bad kid.” Now he is the most talked-about debutant of 2019, and perhaps the most exhilarating story the music industry has witnessed in recent years.
Tyron Kaymone Frampton – the man responsible for all this fuss – owes his artistic pseudonym to his childhood friends who would call him “Slow Ty.” However, after listening to his phenomenal debut album Nothing Great About Britain, it is clear that Slowthai’s first venture into the LP format is nothing short of a brilliancy.
Since the album’s release in May, Slowthai has embarked on a crazy number of tours. The ongoing ‘Eurovision’ tour recently brought him to Amsterdam. To celebrate this occasion, I dedicate this article to the inglorious child of Northampton and his bumpy journey to acclamation.
What is so special about this tatted, motor-mouthed, 24 year old, half-Bajan, half-Brit worldwide sensation?
Although the answer to this question is open to debate, I personally attribute his success to the seething authenticity of his crude style. It merges sounds reminiscent of a variety of different genres such as grime, punk, electro and trap. Nothing Great About Britain is undoubtedly rooted in grime, a genre that should not be mistaken with hip-hop, despite their many similarities. While hip-hop drew influences mainly from R&B, soul, jazz, and funk, grime’s foundation was laid down by UK garage, drum and bass, dubstep and rave culture.
As reporter Jan Błaszczak pointed out during his interview with Slowthai for the Polish quarterly ‘Przekrój,’ grime is all about locality – referencing to particular intersections, pubs, squats and above all people. This local perspective is visible in Slowthai’s outlook on life, politics, genuinity. With the unyielding narrative he adopted on his debut, Slowthai assumes the role of an advocate for everyone. For instance, he leaves no doubts about his attitude towards monarchy; on the opening track of NGAB, he disses Queen Elizabeth with a word that rhymes with the title of his last year EP, RUNT. On ‘Northampton’s child,’ probably the most retrospective of his songs, he acknowledges only one queen, namely his mother. That’s the best testimony of his community-oriented mindset.
It’s not just about the lyrics; Slowthai’s defining consideration for people shines the brightest. He lets his actions speak for himself. The most prominent instance being his ‘99 cent’ tour during which, you guessed it, he charged a whooping sum of 99 cents for tickets to his concerts. The aim was to make his shows as inclusive and available as possible. Money isn’t what Slowthai really strives for – or at least it’s not his priority. In a tenderly heartwarming confession he admitted that once he earned enough money to buy his mother a house, he would never have to worry again.
Slowthai’s habit of installing giant mirrors on the stages he performs on allows the audience to not only watch him, but also themselves.
However, even though this wasn’t the case for his concert in Katowice, Poland, I still treasure it dearly. It was one of the best performances I have ever been to.
Participation, as opposed to passive observation, is the right term to describe what it feels like to be infected by Slowthai’s overflowing stage energy, captivated by his mesmerising charisma and thrilled by whacky shenanigans. Slowthai didn’t accept any wallflowers; he put on a wonderful show, even the most stubborn would find themselves raging in that crowd.
How did he achieve that? What is his secret? I would accredit it to his grin – the dreamy, sincere grin of a boy who came from nowhere but has gone far enough to share his story.
Nothing more, nothing less and, last but certainly not least, nothing great about Britain.
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