Review: “TYRON” by Slowthai

A 90s-inspired work with a peek into Slowthai’s potential musical future

Gabriel Farhadian, Staff Writer

After his satirical 2019 LP “Nothing Great About Britain,” British Northampton rapper Slowthai released his sophomore studio album entitled “TYRON” on Feb. 12.

The cover art for “TYRON,” with an aged warmth that resembles a frame from a Wes Anderson movie, represents the LP’s bane and success. The first side of “TYRON” — with high energy fit for an eventful live show — digs itself into a vintage hole, overusing 1990s and early 2000s beats. Paired with Slowthai’s blatant employment of classic scenes from movies like “Pulp Fiction,” “American Psycho,” “The Shining” and “A Clockwork Orange” in his music videos, listeners have a right to wonder if Slowthai’s work is too focused on the past.

The second side of “TYRON” does well to foil the first half with softer, more mellow tones, but it still does not completely satisfy until the gem “feel away,” in which Slowthai shows his potential to pioneer a novel sound.

“VEX” and “CANCELLED” start off the album, employing the haunted gangster rap 808 bass kick drums from rappers Tommy Wright III and Adam Da Shinobi. The chanting, pitch-distorted vocals featured on “DEAD” and “WOT” continue this possessed style, sounding similar to death rap and metal artist Ghostmane or rap duo $uicideboy$.

“PLAY WITH FIRE” introduces the second side of the album, wielding warbled, crackly loops to create a somber, thoughtful and mellow sound, instead of the brooding, sonic horrors of the first few tracks.

With its warm synths and simple guitar bends and bass line, “i tried” begins the second side of “TYRON,” falling into the vein of classic 2010s bedroom indie artists like TEMPOREX or Mild High Club. On “focus,” the close listener will immediately recognize the sampled and up-pitched vocal hums from producer and electronic artist James Blake’s recent single “You’re Too Precious.” This feature, constructed by James Blake and collaborator Dom Maker, is a wonderful motif that gives the track a serene quality.

On “feel away,” Slowthai and James Blake create what listeners hope Slowthai might explore in his next projects. The immaculate warmth on the track’s instrumental fuses the energies of the first and second parts of “TYRON.” The song “feel away” shows not only the potential of Slowthai’s vocals over a modern beat, but his willingness to step into future experiments without having an overt tether to the past. Furthermore, this track reveals that uneventful, undeveloped and even aged production could be the biggest obstacle holding Slowthai back since the beginning of his career.

In this new LP, Slowthai’s voice carries its weight as it has done his entire career, even in the midst of somewhat uneventful production. Slowthai’s rapping mastery probably explains why, to some listeners, finding a good Slowthai song means just finding a track with good instrumentals. On “feel away,” listeners glimpse what could happen if Slowthai teams up with a tested producer who could help Slowthai execute his vision. The result is a wonderful cocktail of abrasive and smooth, depressed and optimistic, and aggressive and sweet.

While “TYRON” is a substantial album, with a clear vision and a well-executed classic sound, its greatest achievement is showing listeners Slowthai’s potential and his willingness to innovate. Built on a solid foundation of iconic rap sounds and cult classic movies, Slowthai is armed with the tools he needs to be a serious sonic pioneer. Listeners can look forward to seeing how Slowthai develops. With the right instrumentals, Slowthai is capable of being a monolithic musical leader.


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