slowthai says that UGLY is the record he’s always wanted to make but he never previously had the tools to do it. In the aftermath of the gruelling self-examination of 2021’s TYRON, the rapper born Tyron Frampton found himself disorientated and depressed. “I was quiet and down and wasn’t finding anything exciting. I wasn’t feeling myself,” he tells Apple Music. “Delving into this gave me that freedom again. I felt inspired. I wanted to do something new and challenge myself, rather than just doing what’s expected of me.” Drawing on the bands he loved as a teenager, Nirvana and Radiohead among them, slowthai worked with producers Dan Carey, Kwes Darko, Sega Bodega and Zach Nahome to assemble a crack team of players around him, including multi-instrumentalist Ethan P. Flynn, beabadoobee guitarist Jacob Bugden, Shygirl, Jockstrap’s Taylor Skye and drummer Liam Toon as well as his pals Fontaines D.C. The idea, says Frampton, was to move away from the writing processes of his first two records and build these songs from jams then record them live. “I wanted to find the song naturally without it being like, ‘This sound and this sound and this sound,’ and it’s all in the computer,” he says. What’s emerged is slowthai’s most dynamic and inventive album yet—a record that takes in pulverising electro beats, wiry post-punk grooves, thumping indie, neo-soul ballads and widescreen rock but still sounds like part of the same whole. That’s mainly down to Frampton’s front-and-centre delivery, his creative reset coinciding with a period of contemplation. “It’s about finding the love within yourself, taking time to be the best version of yourself,” he says. “It’s reflecting on life, on your journey, and also going back to being the kid, being free rather than chained to a genre.” UGLY is the sound of slowthai liberated. He talks us through it, track by track. “Yum” “This was a track that I didn't even think was going to be on the album. We’d been jamming, and Dan loves that modular stuff. I was like, ‘Let's make something fucking hard.’ We started jamming and I was taking the piss, saying stuff that I wouldn't normally say, stuff where I’d usually be like, ‘Oh no, I can't say that,’ and then that's how it came. It entails being pulled into two different directions—fatherhood and growing up and maturing as a person and then being pulled to friendship and all the things we take part in and indulge in.” “Selfish” “The title is self-explanatory. It’s about doing more for yourself, how you’ve got to love yourself and before you do that you can’t love anyone else, taking time for you and doing what you need rather than what's expected of you or what people think is right, removing all that shit. At the end of the day, it's your world and you’re the one in the driving seat. No one else is going to do that. No one is there other than your mum when you're born, and no one's there when you die. It's just you, so you’ve got to make sure you are number one.” “Sooner” “This is about the journey to get to where you get to realise you didn't need to go anywhere in the first place, how all the realisations I'm having, I already knew at the beginning. I've gone on this journey of being lost to get back to being young and carefree and not giving a fuck and doing stuff because I want to try it, rather than being like, ‘Oh, that's not what I like.’ Just being a kid again, driving around in the 306 feeling lovesick, not giving a fuck about anything and no worries. That's when I was at my happiest, when I was living for living and I didn't have the responsibilities, the ideals of that and the outlook at that time. That's what it means to me, that I wish I got there sooner.” “Feel Good” “When I made this, I didn't feel good, I felt like shit. This is my way of having a mantra. Everyone's got a song that they put on when they're sad to make them feel good, or they might have a song they just want to cry to, but I wanted to make a song for when I feel shit so I could just get up and be, ‘No, I feel good!’ I also wanted to make a song that was like a really repetitive pop song—like a pop song that's not a pop song.” “Never Again” “For me, this is like West Side Story, where there’s a kid who goes and follows his dreams, he had a relationship when he was young, goes and lives his life, comes back to his home, he's achieved what he wants to achieve, and then the girl that was his childhood sweetheart has gone and fallen in love with some other guy, had a family, the other guy is a wrong’un, then at the end it’s a tragedy because he doesn’t get the girl ’cause she couldn’t be saved. The whole point of it is, ‘Never again, I’ll never be consumed by chasing these things to leave behind something when I could have saved someone.’ It’s the love story.” “Fuck It Puppet” “I refer to the therapist in the first song, and the therapist told me about the ‘fuck-it puppet’, like when you go to the pub with your mates and it's like, ‘Yeah, just link up with the boys,’ and they're like, ‘Have a drink!’ and you’re like, ‘Nah,’ then you get this little man or this little crow or whatever it is—everyone’s got one—and it goes, ‘Go on, bruv, just have one,’ and you're like, ‘No, man!’ and he’s like, ‘Go on, have one!’ so you have one, and then you have two and he's like, ‘Go on, have another!’ Then you're like, ‘No, I'm going to go yard,’ and he's like, ‘No, you're good, you're good, come on, bruv,’ and the next minute you’re 20 deep, mashed up. It’s that voice that's in all of us that tells us it's a good idea when we all know it's a bad one.” “HAPPY” “This is the anthem of the album. It's saying that everything that you do, none of it is worth more than happiness, how I'll give it all up in a heartbeat just to smile and just to have the true feeling of happiness and to see other people happy. That's the journey, realising none of this shit matters but the only thing that does is feeling good and being happy.” “UGLY” “It’s based on when the war between Russia and Ukraine started. It made me reflect on the patriarchy and how people fight other people's wars, how we’re sold this dream, society tells us that we should be a part of this thing. People tell you all these things, like the sun shines out your arsehole, just to get you to do certain things but their intentions necessarily aren’t for the good. That's why it's U-G-L-Y—an acronym that stands for ‘You've got to love yourself/You can't be part of anything else.’ The first title for the album was 'Wotz Funny', but I didn't feel like it captured it enough. Then I loved ‘UGLY’, I love the sentiment of it and it going against the norm.” “Falling” “When I was making this, I was imagining a monkey in an astronaut suit floating through space, floating endlessly, and he’s not going anywhere and he’s not got anywhere to be. The message of it is feeling like you’re a shell of yourself, you’re falling deeper into the abyss in your mind and you’re in autopilot through your life, floating through every day and not present in any moment. It’s falling out of love, falling out of life.” “Wotz Funny” “In life, when you’ve come from a different place and you've had a different upbringing—like I didn't have the picket fence, family, mum and dad together, I wasn’t raised in that way, so my normality is different to the people that had that and who were cotton-wooled and sheltered, so the things that are funny to me and funny to a mass majority of people in the world, some people can't understand and we’re judged for it. Here I’m stating all the things that ain’t funny that people tend to laugh at—the junkie teacher that becomes homeless on the street, the single mum that's working hard, the geezer who’s a drunk who bullies all his mates up and he’s the hard nut on the estate. The irony of all these things is that it’s not funny at all but that's what tends to be funny to a lot of people.” “Tourniquet” “This is about cutting pieces of yourself away in order to grow, similar to 'Dead Leaves' on Nothing Great About Britain. It’s about burning all the bridges and things that we're connected to, all these thoughts and theories of what is right and what's wrong and moving past it and just getting to a new place, amputating them pieces of ourselves in order to move forward. It's like, if you were trapped under a bus and you had to cut your legs off or die, what would you do? You'd cut them off, wouldn't you?” “25% Club” “This was the song I wrote before ‘Yum’. They’re twins, like Harry Potter and Voldemort’s wands. It’s about how every person has something in them that's missing that we're all in search of—that question of ‘why am I here?’ that we are never going to understand. It's a thing of wanting and longing, and I don't think you'll ever find that missing piece. It's always going to be 25% missing. The 25% Club is the club where we all reside and you find the person or the thing or whatever it is that makes up that other 25% to make you 100%, to make you complete. I think in a world where we long to be complete, it's a myth, it's a delusion of grandeur that you're going to get this missing piece of yourself and it's going to make you feel whole.”

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