Album review: slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain

Album cover for slowthai's debut album: Nothing Great About Britain.

Album cover for slowthai's debut album: Nothing Great About Britain. - Credit: Archant

A vivid and gripping tour of modern life from the brightest new star of Britain’s grime scene.

Known to his mother as Tyron Frampton, Northampton's slowthai has been garnering plaudits ever since his breakout track Jiggle three years ago.

The lead-up to this debut record has seen a fistful of vital, vibrant videos featuring Frampton's fearless persona go viral - naked and staring out of a frame in an art gallery, hanging out of the passenger window of a hatchback while flying the Union Jack, spitting lyrics in a tracksuit propped up against a pub pool table, and all the while staring, in an almost maniac-state, down the barrel of the lens and flashing some seriously blingin' toothware.

Largely recorded in early 2018 in east London, the LP lays down the high-octane rapper's perspective on the island he calls home, lampooning himself and baiting the royals, nationalist populism, politicians and cultural appropriation while dropping references to depression, disaffection, violence, regret, gang life and county lines drug dealing.

Frampton spits out couplets like a Gatling gun, gleefully cross-pollinating metaphors in a thick London accent, and peppering tracks with snatched recordings of idle chat and, at one point, some vintage newsreel about glue-sniffing.

He's a compelling rapper, painting grim scenes of the life he sees, and more than holds his own when pulling in big guest names - Tottenham superstar Skepta on Inglorious, and grime prodigy Jaykae on Grow Up.

Aside from the syncopated beats of Gorgeous, which charts his challenging council estate upbringing in the Midlands, to Doorman's descending scuzzy bass guitar riff (bringing Sleaford Mods and The Stooges to mind), Frampton's lines play out over taut beats and brittle electronica, painting a suitably gritty soundscape.

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Aiming high, he says he wants his debut to advocate for community in a country that can increasingly feel at war with itself, mired in fear and insularity.

Whether Nothing Great About Britain manages that remains to be seen, but for now it is a gripping glare in the mirror from a clever, self-aware and plucky commentator.

Rating: 4/5 stars