The rap scene in England is stocked with talent, and as hip-hop evolves, more rappers from across the pond are gaining recognition in America. Slowthai is one of those artists, thanks to the dexterity of his flows honed from his grime background and his clever lyricism. Three years ago, the dynamic rapper was featured in XXL‘s The New New: 14 Rappers You Should Know, where he was described as having “the flow of Dizzee Rascal mixed with the zaniness of Eminem.”
That Slim Shady connection is no coincidence. Picking up an interest in rapping after watching a VHS bootleg of the Eminem battle rap coming-of-age film 8 Mile when he was (no pun intended) 8 years old, Slowthai began writing rhymes. He started rapping with friends throughout his teenage years, which helped him develop his style. Growing up as the eldest of three kids—his younger brother died as a child—Slowthai was raised by a single mom—she’s of Bajan descent while his estranged father is White—which provided him plenty of real-life experiences to rap about, using music as his therapy.
When he was 19 years old, Slowthai realized hustling in the street wouldn’t change his life, but music could be a viable way out. He released the song “Jiggle” in 2016, and never looked back, continuing to release one-off singles and get his name around his hometown of Northampton and beyond. He’s made a name for himself with his live shows where anything goes—he’s even spat in fans’ mouths—wildly creative music videos that go from odd to comical and versatile rhymes that pair punk energy with an amusing take on life.
Now, he’s one of the U.K.’s most notable young rappers, following the critical acclaim of his debut album, Nothing Great About Britain, in 2019. Just last week, he released TYRON, his sophomore album titled with his government name and released via Method Records/Interscope Records/AWGE. The 14-track, two-part album, led by the single “Mazza” featuring A$AP Rocky, and “Cancelled” featuring Skepta, is impressive. The rising rapper employs a variety of sounds and showcases depth on the LP, where he gets personal and illustrates the world around him. “Aye, she said I do magic, like Harry Potter/I’m off the vodka/Orderin’ lobster, said it’s preposterous/I’m so obnoxious, I need a doctor/Said I won’t come back/I must be cancer, ain’t got much longer,” he raps on “Cancelled.”
This year, he’s also a Grammy Award-nominated artist. Disclosure’s “My High” featuring Slowthai and Aminé is up for Best Dance Recording at the 2021 Grammy Awards. Two months into 2021, and Slowthai is seemingly having his best year ever.
For this week’s edition of The Break, we chat with Slowthai about his journey so far and how he got here.
Hometown: Northampton, England
I grew up listening to: “When I was really young, it was Em[inem], 50 [Cent], a lot of garage, a lot of Linkin Park. Just random stuff really. Dipset, that was something my uncle was always banging. They were unapologetic, just done their thing, didn’t really give a fuck about what anyone else thought. It was just about this money and that’s it. And then Ludacris. I don’t know, just stuff like that. And then Skepta, all people from the U.K. Obviously, Jay-Z was someone, he would always be on when I was growing up.”
My style’s been compared to: “The Sex Pistols. I think more Johnny Rotten, [lead singer of Sex Pistols]. We all have influences, but I’ve always just seen it as I’m doing my own thing. But people compare me to The Streets. I don’t like comparisons because I’m trying to do my own thing, when tomorrow I could make something completely different to what I was making yesterday.”
I’m going to blow up because: “Just faith and belief. There’ll be obstacles and there’ll be hurdles, and it’s just about how you deal with them when you get to them. I can’t predict the future, I can only visualize what I want and manifest it. But sometimes, it might take a U-turn and you have to double back on yourself and come back. It’s just knowing what I want and knowing how I’m going to get there. You can’t be stopped when you just have that belief. You got to be your own biggest fan before anyone else can. That’s why people can hate, people can do their thing, but it doesn’t bother me, because as long as I’m making music I love, who gives a fuck about what anyone else thinks?”
What’s your most slept-on song, and why?: “That’s a good question. I reckon ‘Enemy.’ ‘Enemy’ is probably my most slept-on song, and that’s because the flow I’m using on that beat, I’m gliding. It’s like I’m in that pocket, I’m there. And it’s my feelings and my aggression and what I’m saying is that ‘I forget the names, I remember faces/I’ll see you later, alligator/And I’m catching cases/I’ll make the papers.’ They’re things that I felt with my whole heart, the anger, and I feel like I summed it up the right way. I don’t know if it’s slept on or not, I just feel like it deserves more attention than it got.”
My standout records to date have been: “I think ‘Doorman’ and ‘Momentary Bliss’ with Gorillaz, and ‘T N Biscuits.’ I don’t know. I’m trying to make these next ones. These next ones are going to be the biggest ones. So, I don’t watch the numbers, I just know when it comes to time to party. We’re doing the live show, all these songs are going to go off. So, I was ready for that.
My standout moments to date have been: “[Performing at] Glastonbury [Festival]. Or you know what? For me, a personal one was [performing at] Camp Flog Gnaw, because I’ve been a fan of Tyler, [The Creator] and Odd Future for years. And just getting to play there, and having two mosh pits, because the crowd’s split down the middle. I had either side just going in the circle of death, just running round in circles. To be in L.A., that far away from home, and there be so many like-minded people in one point, in one place is crazy.
“But it’s that or Glastonbury, because Glastonbury was something I dreamed of doing since I first started. I thought when you do that, that’s when you’ve made it. And then doing it, I was like, ‘Yeah, well, I still got a long way to go, but we’re here. Fuck it. This is one of the best moments.’ And there was people as far as I could see. I would’ve cried if I didn’t feel that it was coming. Inside I was crying, but on the out, I was like, ‘Oh man, this is crazy!’ That and the Grammy as well. A Grammy nod is crazy, but awards don’t mean nothing. As long as people are connecting, that’s all that matters.”
Most people don’t know: “I’m a really nice person. I like writing poetry. There’s something not a lot of people know about me. I think people have started to know. Yeah, I like poetry. I kickbox. I ride motocross. They’re things that I don’t think many people know. I think they’re starting to know now. I’m trying to get out to Philly, and go on get on the back wheel.”
I’m going to be the next: “Game-changer.”
“T N Biscuits”
“Mazza” featuring A$AP Rocky
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