slowthai | Biografie

Slowthai — “Nothing Great About Britan” — 2019

slowthai bio — 2019

slowthai knew the title of his album long before he wrote a single bar of it. He knew he wanted the record
to speak candidly about his upbringing on the council estates of Northampton, and for it to advocate for
community in a country increasingly mired in fear and insularity. Three years since the phrase first
appeared in his breakout track ‘Jiggle’, Tyron Frampton presents his incendiary debut ‘Nothing Great About
Britain’.

For Ty, it’s been a long journey to this point. He recalls first rapping aged 8 — mostly to impress friends in
the playground, or to win the attentions of his largely absent father — before a VHS bootleg of ‘8 Mile’
procured from the barbers fired his imagination. Even in the early days his flow stood out, that serrated
slur initially dismissed as “weird” by peers and later respected for exactly the same reason. Today, the 24-
year-old MC is rapidly becoming notorious as the rarest of commodities: an authentic voice in an
increasingly gentrified world.

Ask Ty about it, and he’ll tell you he’s only speaking his truth. “I knew what I wanted to say on the album,”
he explains. “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.
And it took me going through a tonne of shit to realise that none of these things — no money, no drugs, no
fake relationships — is gonna make me happy, or make me a good person.”

Ty’s wasn’t the easiest of upbringings. The oldest of three kids, he was raised almost single-handedly by his
teenage mum, in a city with rapidly declining prospects. Tragically, his younger brother passed away, aged
just one. He watched his stepfather hustle, his uncle struggle with addiction and Ty himself grappled with
his own racial identity, “I didn’t fit in with a group because I weren’t black nor white”.
Channelling these experiences into his debut, Ty is totally immune to self-pity. On the title track he sets
about systematically dismantling the stereotypes of British culture, bating the Royals and lampooning the
jingoistic bluster that has ultimately led to Brexit and a surge in nationalism. “Tea, biscuits, the roads:
everything we associate with being British isn’t British,” he cries today. “What’s so great about Britain? The
fact we were an empire based off of raping and pillaging and killing, and taking other people’s culture and
making it our own?”

And yet, in the closing bars, when Ty growls, “Hand on heart, I’m proud to be British,” he means it. “It’s the
people that make Britain great,” he explains. “The whole album’s about community and coming together,
because your family, your community and the bonds we have as people is all that matters.”
Largely recorded in early 2018 in East London, with Kwes Darko producing, the album serves up a
succession of candid snapshots of British life. Drugs, disaffection, depression and the threat of violence all
loom in Ty’s visceral verses, but so too does hope, love and defiance. Linking up with Skepta for the
Tarantino-referencing ‘Inglorious’, the pair warn haters, “Come up against us and you’ll fail.” ‘Dead Leaves’
celebrates cutting off toxic relationships, the nostalgic ‘Toaster’ explores the construct of UK society and
the authorities misled impression of people like him, while on ‘Grow Up’ — featuring Birmingham MC Jaykae
- Ty preaches the importance of being present in the moment.

Those familiar with Ty’s previous form badmouthing Brexit and trolling Theresa May might find Nothing
Great About Britain less explicitly political than expected. This lack of specifics is born out of a desire not
to date a record that he hopes will “resonate with people 40 years down the line.” In actual fact, its Ty’s
decision to deal unflinchingly with painful personal experiences that make his debut such a deeply political
record.

The album’s focal point is unquestionably the autobiographical closing track. A searing account of an
upbringing informed by financial struggle and adversity, ‘Northampton’s Child’ finds Ty praising his mum’s
tenacious spirit and selfless dedication to her family. Having knocked the Royals off their pedestal on the
album’s opening track, here he crowns his mother as his “only Queen”, before confessing “No way I can pay
you back / I just hope I can make you proud.”

Standing alongside righteous anger and hard truths, it’s this willingness to appear vulnerable that makes
Ty such a compelling storyteller, and this debut a vital cultural document, testament to the healing power
of music. As Ty himself explains, “Music to me is the biggest connector of people. It don’t matter what social
circle you’re from, it bonds people across divides. And that’s why I do music: to bridge the gap and bring
people together.”