Surging with the powerful punk energy that drove his 2019 debut Nothing Great About Britain, Slowthai’s return with TYRON is an attempt to a paint picture with tendrils of depth beyond his controversial persona. It’s successful in its endeavour - to a degree - but with this it ultimately ends up softened by complex musings of defiance and self-doubt.
From the get go it's a swift power play. Opener “45 SMOKE” - a dense instrumental - carries over its anthemic tendencies into the authoritative but sensitive “CANCELLED”, featuring Skepta before A$AP Rocky enters the room with his radiating smooth confidence on the minimalistic offering “MAZZA”. Each cut perfectly offsetting Slowthai’s urgent, fast-paced delivery.
Keeping the laundry list of famous faces going, Deb Never’s soft vocals on the woozy, acoustic guitar-led “Push,” and the cathartic croon of James Blake on “Feel Away,” blanket the raw and gothic sonic style of the first half of TYRON. Smoothing it over with vulnerability and contemplations about slowing down and near-death experiences hidden in everyday memories by injecting warm piano soundscapes the tendrils begin to construct their beneath-the-surface insight.
Every feature on the record brings an undeniable force of energy, however, within this you could find an artistic insecurity that is masked away by grandeur. For an album that feels like attempt to explore wisdom drawn from personal experiences and thoughtful reflections, there is very little of the Slowthai himself within the project.
Mostly content to catch heavy-handed throws from his guests and rap away lyrically unimpressive verses, two stand-outs where the Northampton rapper lets himself shine are “DEAD” - where he acknowledges and reclaims the controversy of his musical journey - and the groovy stylings of booming but contemplative “focus”, where he finally allows listeners a glimpse of the person he is behind, and beyond, his impassioned music, as he remembers those that matter: “I miss my brothers / I miss my fam as well / Everybody else can go and fuck themselves.”
Overall, TYRON is not quite the same intense powerhouse as Nothing Great About Britain. The strength of the first half gives way to half-hearted examinations of one’s place in the world. But Slowthai still delivers a compelling record which seeks to discover and establish a self-portrait that’s a little messy but worth praising for its efforts at rough-around-the-edges ingenuity.