The battle over Brexit may be taking place in the Houses of Parliament, but its soundtrack hails from just over 60 miles away in central England. Northampton’s Tyron Kaymone Frampton, otherwise known as slowthai, is the most exciting new MC to come out of Britain in the last few years. The 24-year old is on a mission to hold a mirror up to present-day Britain; the result is intense, adrenaline-fuelled and uncompromising songs, with live performances to match.
After two EPs, the breakthrough single T N Biscuits and a wildly praised tour in 2018 and 2019 where he was the self-styled ‘Brexit Bandit’, slowthai’s first album is released today (17 May). Called Nothing Great About Britain, the album paints a raw and menacing portrait of a divided and unequal nation – taking swipes at, among other things, nationalism, working-class culture fetishisation, and even his attempts to chat up a posh woman. The video for the title track sees slowthai becoming the royal heir to the throne after pulling the legendary Excalibur sword from its stone, with no British stereotype left unmocked (including our very own BBC News).
slowthai is currently touring the UK, and is due to tour the US and Europe from June onwards. To mark the release of his album, here are eight things you need to know about the Brexit Bandit.
His stagename comes from his childhood
slowthai is a play on a nickname given to him as a child growing up on a Northampton housing estate. Raised by a single mother, young Tyron used to mumble and slur his words, so his friends would call him ‘Slow Ty’.
He’s as hotly tipped as they come in the UK
slowthai has been a fixture in Ones To Watch-type lists over the last 12 months, including being shortlisted in the BBC’s Sound Of 2019 poll. Explaining the popularity of his music, he told the BBC “It gives [people] a sense of – no matter where you are – there is somebody out there that has a similar understanding or viewpoint or perspective. It shows people that haven't got much, I haven't got anything, that they can do whatever they want to do.”
Don’t pigeon-hole slowthai as just a rapper
He is commonly called a rapper, but slowthai can’t be defined by a genre. He’s rap, he’s grime, he’s punk. His stories of modern Britain are the latest in a line that can be traced back through Dizzee Rascal to The Streets to The Specials. He riffs and references The Sex Pistols on his album, and has said that Sid Vicious is his spirit animal. He says his first important exposure to music was through bands such as Radiohead. “Obviously, Creep was the one I related to,” he told The Guardian.
Brexit played its part in the album release date
The original release date for the album was intended to coincide with Britain’s proposed departure date from the European Union. However, the withdrawal has been postponed twice. For the record, EU leaders have backed a six-month extension until 31 October 2019… but the UK will leave before this date if the withdrawal agreement is ratified by the UK and the EU before then.
His visual style is as defining as his sound
Slowthai says he thinks visually. His videos see him acting out scenes from Trainspotting, A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. His live shows usually end with him stripped down to his boxer shorts and socks. His iconic album cover shows him naked in a set of medieval stocks on the housing estate that he first lived on. He says he wants to create a comic book, like his fellow Northamptonian Alan Moore, the legendary creator of Watchmen. He has the title of his album tattooed on his stomach; his favourite tattoo says "sorry mum" on his chest, a tribute to what he claims is his most frequently said phrase.
He says his views are easily misunderstood
When he started waving a Union Jack flag during his live shows, people assumed he was part of the far-right organization English Defence League – not knowing he is from Irish and Bajan heritage. He told The Guardian he’s not picking sides on his album. “I just give my perspective on how my life was and I hope people who have had a similar sort of thing can relate to it.”
He made his UK tour budget-friendly
In April, slowthai asked fans for suggestions on where he should play on tour, all tickets being sold for just 99p ($1.30) each. “I’ll come to every pub; your dad’s working men’s club – I just wanna see all of you and connect,” he told fans on Twitter.
He shies away from being called the voice of a generation
slowthai may create revealing portraits about young broken Britain, but he hates the idea of being described as the voice of a generation. He says he just wants to be the voice of people who want to hear what he says. Describing the album, he said: “It’s basically my experience of growing up [in the UK]; of having a family that were immigrants originally, of the stories they’ve told me, of my childhood and how I’ve lived my life. Through it, I’ve gone on a journey of explaining how everything I was chasing to make me feel good only clouded my judgement.”
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