slowthai knows how it feels to be an outsider looking in. The Northampton born-and-raised artist’s music is a frenetic clash of punk energy, speaker-thrashing hip-hop and rebellion. Every lyric he utters is crystal clear, even through distorted and discordant production, delivered with raw emotion and devilish wit. Just a handful of singles and one EP (2017’s ‘I WISH I KNEW’) have been enough to propel his name onto the lips of anyone monitoring the British rap scene. However, in dialogue, with no mic to wield and no instrumental to ride, the ideas and intellect remain – but the conviction is replaced with false starts, pauses, and low-strung laughter.
“Everyone used to call me slow because I mumble my words sometimes,” he articulates from the other end of the phone, “the mandem used to call me slow. Slow Ty.” His speech is drawn out, reflecting that his energy is reserved for artistic expression. “When I meet people, I don’t really like talking at all. It’s a confidence thing. I definitely was an introvert,” he says. “When I was in my own space, just writing and shit, I was able to finally get all this stuff out.”
Ty (real name Tyron) grew up around grime and garage in a town that, at the time, was having something of a rave renaissance. When ‘urban’ events were being shut down across London, the legendary Sidewinder nights (co-founded in a tiny record store by a then-boyfriend of slowthai’s aunt) put Northampton on the map. He has ‘NN’ tattooed on his index finger – Northampton’s postcode. “I spent a lot of time in that shop when I was little,” he says, reminiscing, “but I went through different phases with music. When my brother died, I went through a mad heavy phase and would just be watching Kerrang! [TV], skating and moshing.”
As much as he loves his town, he acknowledges the problem of apathy, chronic in modern Britain, explaining: “I didn’t want to be 30 and in jail, or chatting shit in the pub and going to the bookies. It’s all bad energy. It’s the easy route, but you don’t achieve shit. I couldn’t live that way.”
Heavily tattooed, and often sporting a mouth full of metal, slowthai is an explosive force of faith, nihilistic optimism and individual liberty; a ‘fuck you’ to your expectations, and your bad energy.
WHAT: Teeth-gritting, grime-infused rap that you shouldn’t play your nan
GET 3 SONGS: ‘t n biscuits’, ‘murder’, ‘R.I.P’
FACT: He started rapping at the age of nine, after he and his cousin religiously watched a bootleg VHS of Eminem’s 8 Mile.
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Words: Robbie Russell
Fashion: Josh Tuckley
Photography: Sophie Mayanne
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