- Credit: Method Records
A year ago, Tyron Frampton was riding high at the NME Awards ceremony, ready to lap up the glory for his gritty, Mercury-nominated debut Nothing Great About Britain, when a drunken, misogynistic and lecherous interview with the host, followed by an ego-fuelled almost-brawl with a punter, left him looking outdated and overhyped.
To his credit, the Northampton-based rapper’s apology was quick and humble, and he’s been staying off the booze while this follow-up was put together, mostly through various Covid lockdowns.
The record’s split in two, the grime star spending most of the first half dabbling in some predictable posturing, provoking and peacocking – including with returning guest Skepta on the ego-trip Cancelled.
Taut beats and brittle electronica remain the order of the day, too, particularly on the likes of Vex, a nervously on-edge synth and skittering hi-hat soundtracking Slowthai’s paranoid stream of consciousness.
The clever, self-aware, manic and unruly persona cultivated on his debut is still in evidence, but the 25-year-old has largely turned his slews of quick-fire mixed metaphors inwards.
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Dead riffs on the power of culture and the arts to deliver someone like him immortality of a sort, and A$AP Rocky’s guest spot are a welcome laid-back foil to Slowthai’s brusque, Gatling-gun delivery on Mazza.
The record’s lead single Feel Away, in which Slowthai digests the end of a relationship, features emotive vocals from James Blake, the introspective atmospherics completed by a treated, three-note piano motif from electro duo Mount Kimbie.
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And there are considered lyrics spat out in NHS: the sardonic video sees him variously rapping from atop a tower of loo rolls, queueing Covid-style for a supermarket, and sitting in his pants in his bedroom. Ostensibly a song for the treasured health service, he actually spends it expounding relative desirability and just being happy with your lot (“We want them all ‘til we have ‘em, happier with rations”) over a gently contemplative piano-and-bass R’n’B ballad.
He allows a rare chink of light in on closing track ADHD. An internal monologue reflecting on the effects of the condition and how “my complexity be the death of me”, it’s arguably the best track here and perhaps a pointer to where he should be heading next.