Album Review: slowthai – TYRON

7.5/10

slowthai TYRON

Without being too patronising, you didn’t need years of psychotherapy training to embrace the possibility that Tyron Frampton’s complicated past and presents might end up creating some tension.

It’s rare for a man to be such an open book in the dog-eat-dog world of rap, but even in slowthai-mode Northampton’s favourite son often ended up his own worst enemy.

It’s equally true that the people who like to build you up also like to knock you down, but there are some who just want to do the latter; naming your album Nothing Great About Britain was an obvious index finger to the nationalist, post-referendum frothers, but was a minor outrage generator though when compared to calling the Queen a c*** on the title-track.

Having pissed off arguably all the right people, a situation which got out of hand with Katherine Ryan at 2020’s NME Awards instantly transformed the loveable motormouth from hero to villain, his admittedly boorish actions causing a predictable logjam of commentators who were all crawling over each other to express their various degrees of self-righteous offense.

TYRON is his answer.

Or at least in part. What does a man who plays a singular game by rules he seems to make up as goes along do to address the tensions between the bad boy and only son roles he wants to fulfill? Simple: he writes an album that satisfies the emotional drawdowns of both.

As if to emphasise the duality of his second album, there’s a clear demarcation of the material into two sides. First up we have Tyron The Terrible, spitting bars in his usual slightly cartoon style, but now with a heavier, less carefree delivery.

There’s a kind of precision too, opener 45 SMOKE less than two minutes of wrecking, while his co-platforming with Skepta on CANCELLED rages against those strangers he says are ‘playing judge, jury and executioner’ of more than just his career.

One more big name joins him in this phase – A$AP Rocky on the heavily bound up MAZZA – but later solo tracks like DEAD and VEX are dark, confrontationally intense 2am episodes made to take a stranglehold on peaking crowds in small, sweaty rooms.

If that’s progression for someone who’s experienced a rough ride from the slingshot of fame, the slowthai which then emerges isn’t chastened as such, but warily reaching out.

‘terms’ is an examination of the vagaries of making it at R&B pace with a guesting Denzel Curry and Dominic Fike, while ‘feel away’ – with less likely partners James Blake and Mount Kimbie – soulfully grapples with empathy and the spaces in between.

We’re told that this is a lockdown record, even given the upfront and highly personal nature of the contents. It’s been a period in which most of us have failed to live our lives in any meaningful way, and on ‘nhs’ the guilt of taking everything for granted spills over into heartfelt words dedicated to those who pick up our pieces without judgement.

The ride ends with ‘adhd’, a direct reference to a condition which explains both patterns and the need for a support network that goes beyond seeing the ripples in black or white. Part way through, our boy phones a friend to say he loves him, before the glow and calm evaporates into drain-circling anguish: “Heavy weaponry at my melon, squeezed/I got tendencies, psycho tendencies.”

Music as therapy makes for surprising outcomes; TYRON is, like its creator, messy and sweet one moment, angry or mischievous the next.

We’re all invited to his sessions – and this scribbled series of conversations with himself says there’s hope for the subject yet.

Andy Peterson
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