“I’ve had a lot of controversies in my short period being an artist,” slowthai tells Apple Music. “But I always try making a statement.” In 2019, there was the Northampton rapper’s establishment-rattling appearance at the Mercury Prize ceremony, hoisting of an effigy of Boris Johnson’s severed head. A few months later, sexualised comments he made to comedian Katherine Ryan at the 2020 NME Awards caused a fierce Twitter backlash and prompted the Record Store Day 2020 campaign to withdraw an invitation for slowthai to be its UK ambassador. Ryan labelled their exchange “pantomime” but it led to a confrontation with an audience member and slowthai’s apology for his “shameful actions”. Since releasing his 2019 debut Nothing Great About Britain, then, the artist born Tyron Frampton has known the unforgiving heat of public judgement. It’s helped forge TYRON, a follow-up demarcated into two seven-track sides. The first is brash, incendiary and energised, continuing to draw a through line between punk and UK rap. The second is vulnerable and introspective, its beats more contemplative and searching. The overarching message is that there are two sides to every story, and even more to every human being. “We all have the side that we don’t show, and the side we show,” he says. “Living up to expectations—and then not giving a fuck and just being honest with yourself.” Featuring guests including Skepta, A$AP Rocky, James Blake and Denzel Curry, these songs, he hopes, will offer help to others feeling penned in by judgement, stereotypes or a lack of self-confidence. “I just want them to realise they’re not alone and can be themselves,” he says. “I know that when shit gets dark, you need a little bit of light.” Explore all of slowthai’s sides with his track-by-track guide. 45 SMOKE “‘Rise and shine, let’s get it/Bumbaclart dickhead/Bumbaclart dickhead.’ It’s like the wake-up call for myself. It’s how you feel when you’re making constant mistakes, or you’re in a rut and you wake up like, ‘I really don’t want to wake up, I’d rather just sleep all day.’ It’s explaining where I’m from, and the same routine of doing this bullshit life that I don’t want to do—but I’m doing it just for the sake of doing it or because this is what’s expected of me.” CANCELLED “This song’s a fuck-you to the cancel culture, to people trying to tear you down and make it like you’re a bad person—because all I’ve done my whole life is try and escape that stereotype, and try and better myself. You can call me what you want, you can say what you think happened, but most of all I know myself. Through doing this, I’ve figured it out on a deeper level. When we made this, I was in a dark place because of everything going on. And Skep [Skepta, co-MC on this track] was guiding me out. He was saying, ‘Yo, man, this isn’t your defining moment. If anything, it pushes you to prove your point even more.’” MAZZA “Mazza is ‘mazzalean’, which is my own word... It's just a mad thing. It’s for the people that have mad ADHD [slowthai lives with the disorder], ADD, and can’t focus on something—like how everything comes and it’s so quick, and it’s a rush. It’s where my head was at—be it that I was drinking a lot, or travelling a lot, and seeing a lot of things and doing a lot of dumb shit. Mad time. As soon as I made it, I FaceTimed [A$AP] Rocky because I was that gassed. We’d been working here and there, doing little bits. He was like, ‘This is hard. Come link up.’ He was in London and I went down there and [we] just patterned it out.” VEX “It’s just about being angry at social media, at the fakeness, how everyone’s trying to be someone they’re not and showing the good parts of their lives. You just end up feeling shit, because even if your life’s the best it could be, it just puts in your head that, ‘Ah, it could always be better.’ Most of these people aren’t even happy—that’s why they're looking for validation on the internet.” WOT “I met Pop Smoke, and that night I recorded this song. It was the night he passed. The next morning, I woke up at 6 am to go to the Disclosure video shoot [for ‘My High’] and saw the news. I was just mad overwhelmed. Initially, I’d linked up with Rocky, making another tune, but he didn’t finish his bit. [slowthai’s part] felt like it summed it up the energies—it was like [Pop Smoke’s] energy, just good vibes. I felt like I wouldn't make it any longer because it’s straight to the point. As soon as it starts, you know that it’s on.” DEAD “We say ‘That’s dead’ as in it’s not good, it’s shit. So I was like, ‘Yo, every one of these things is dead to me.’ There’s a line, ‘People change for money/What’s money with no time?’ That’s aimed at people saying I changed because I gained success. It’s not that I’ve changed, but I’ve grown or grown out of certain things. It’s not the money that changed me, it’s understanding that doing certain things is not making me any better. If I’m spending all my time working on bettering myself and trying to better my craft, the money’s irrelevant. I don’t even have the time to spend it. So it’s just like saying everything’s dead. I’m focusing on living forever through my music and my art.” PLAY WITH FIRE “Even though we want to move far away from situations and circumstances, we keep toying with the idea [of them]. It plays on your mind that you want to be in that position. ‘PLAY WITH FIRE’ is the letting go as well as trying to hold on to these things. When it goes into [next track] ‘i tried’, it’s like, ‘I tried to do all these things, live up to these expectations and be this person, but it wasn’t working for me.’ And on the other foot, I tried all these things. I can’t die saying I didn’t. You have to love everything for how it is to understand it, and try and move on. You’ve got to understand something for the negative before you can really understand the positive.” i tried “‘Long road/Tumble down this black hole/Stuck in Sunday league/But I’m on levels with Ronaldo.’ It’s saying it’s been a struggle to get here. And even still, I feel like I’m travelling into a void. You feel like you’re sinking into yourself—be it through taking too many drugs or drinking too much and burying yourself in a hole, just being on autopilot. It’s coming to that understanding, and dealing with those problems. It’s [about] boosting my confidence and my true self: ‘Yo, man, you’re the best. If this was football, you’d be the Ballon d’Or winner.’ We always look at what we think we should be like. We never actually look at who we are, and what our qualities are. ‘I’ve got a sickness/And I’m dealing with it.’ I’m trying. I'm trying every avenue, and with a bit of hope and a bit of luck, I can become who I want to be.” focus “From the beginning, even though I’m in this pocket of people and this way of life, I’ve always known to go against that grain. I didn’t ever want to end up in jail. You either get a trade or you end doing shit and potentially you end in jail. A lot of people around me, they’re still in that cycle. And this is me saying, ‘Focus on some other shit.’ I come from the shit, and I pushed and I got there. And it was through maintaining that focus.” terms “It’s the terms and conditions that come with popularity and...fame. I don’t like that word. I hate words like ‘fad’ and ‘fame’. They make me cringe so much. Maybe I’ve got something against words that begin with F. But it’s just dealing with what comes with it and how it’s not what you expected it to be. The headache of being judged for being a human being. Once you get any recognition for your art, you’re no longer a human—you’re a product. Dominic [Fike, guest vocalist] sums it up beautifully in the hook.” push “‘Push’ is an acronym for ‘praying until something happens’. When you’re in a corner, you’ve got to keep pushing. Even when you’re at your lowest. That’s all life is, right? It’s a push. Being pulled is the easy route, but when you’re pushing for something, the hard work conditions your mind, strengthens you physically and spiritually, and you come out on top. I used to be religious—when my brother passed, when I was young. I asked for a Bible for my birthday, which was some weird shit. Through this project…it’s not faith in God, but my faith in people, it’s been kind of restored, my faith in myself. Everyone I work with on this, they’re my friends, and they’re all people that have helped me through something. And Deb [Never, guest vocalist]—we call each other twins. She’s my sister that I’ve known my whole life but I haven’t known my whole life.” nhs “It’s all about appreciation. The NHS—something that’s been doing work for generations, to save people—it’s been so taken for granted. It’s a place where everyone’s equal and everyone’s treated the same. It takes this [pandemic] for us to applaud people who have been giving their lives to help others. They should have constant applause at the end of every shift. We’re out here complaining and always wanting more. I don’t know if it’s a human defect or just consumerism, but you get one thing and then you always want the next best thing. I do it a lot. And there’s never a best one, because there’s always another one. Just be happy with what you’ve got. You'll end up having an aneurysm.” feel away “Dom [Maker, co-producer and one half of Mount Kimbie] works with James [Blake] a lot. They record a bunch of stuff, chop it up and create loops. I was going through all these loops, and I was like, ‘This one’s the one.’ As soon as we played it, I had lyrics and recorded my bit. I’ve loved James from when I was a kid at school and was like, ‘We should get James.’ We sent it to him, and in my head, I was like, ‘Ah, he’s not going to record on it.’ But the next day, we had the tune. I was just so gassed. I dedicated it to my brother passing. But it’s about putting yourself in your partner’s shoes, because through experiences, be it from my mum or friends, I’ve learnt that in a lot of relationships, when a woman’s pregnant, the man tends to leave the woman. The woman usually is all alone to deal with all these problems. I wanted it to be the other way around—the woman leaves the man. He’s got to go through all that pain to get to the better side, the beauty of it.” adhd “When I was really young, my mum and people around me didn’t really believe in [ADHD]—like, ‘It’s a hyperactive kid, they just want attention.’ They didn’t ever see it as a disorder. And I think this is my way of summarising the whole album: This is something that I’ve dealt with, and people around me have dealt with. It’s hard for people to understand because they don’t get why it’s the impulses, or how it might just be a reaction to something that you can’t control. You try to, but it’s embedded in you. It’s just my conclusion—like at the end of the book, when you get to the bit where everything starts making sense. I feel like this is the most connected I’ve been to a song. It’s the clearest depiction of what my voice naturally sounds like, without me pushing it out, or projecting it in any way, or being aggressive. It’s just softly spoken, and then it gets to that anger at the end. And then a kiss—just to sweeten it all up.”

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