slowthai is inimitable. Whereas most artists have a slew of up-and-comers trying to bite their flow or look or music, the Northampton artist is so far and away from anyone else that no-one is foolish enough to even make the attempt. The 23-year-old rapper-slash-rockstar spits out caustically witty bars over abrasive beats that blend grime, trap, Soundcloud rap and even punk and screamo.
His flow is as versatile as the music he raps over, too. It can go from being languid, melancholic and half-sung, to acerbic, sharp and cold. Then there’s his latest offering with electronic music producer Mura Masa, “Doorman”, which has more in common with lo-fi punk than rap – perfect for his sold-out live shows that bristle with punk energy and often end up with him hanging off rafters in nothing but his boxers and socks.
Despite having already displayed more musical variety than some artists manage over the course of entire careers, slowthai has yet to even release an album. He’s put out two EPs – I Wish I Knew (2017) on London label Bone Soda, and Runt, which was released late this summer. He is also a master of the music video, each one thoughtfully and meticulously crafted with the help of his cousin – who is also his manager – and an old friend. Expect references to cult cinema and iconic images in pop culture repurposed to feature the artist himself.
In partnership Youtube Music and NTS Radio, I sat down with slowthai – real name Tyron Frampton – to discuss the musical influences and discoveries that have made him the exciting artist he is today. Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone with a catalogue of music this varied, slowthai’s musical influences are broad, loose, and often unexpected. You can follow through here to listen to his picks.
What was the first musical thing – whether an artist, song, album, live performance video – that you can remember someone recommending to you?
The first musical thing I remember someone recommending to me is probably Ludacris – the one where he has massive arms in the music video. “Get Back” It was recommended to me by my cousin who's now my manager. Other than that I remember DMX’s “Damien”, which was shown to me by another cousin.
Describe the most iconic live performance you've seen video footage of.
The most iconic applause I've ever seen is from a Michael Jackson show in Japan – his entrance is actually 15 minutes long and the crowd is clapping the whole time. He puts a hand out, then a leg…I think it's the longest applause ever. Other than that – every performance by G.G. Allen.
What's the weirdest thing your parents have recommended? The best thing?
My mum is quite young so we actually have similar taste in music… but the weirdest thing she's done recently is show me Headie One’s “Know Better” within the first couple of hours of it being up on the internet! I can come in and she's cleaning up listening to Wiley. I have to be in the mood for a certain type of music but she can just listen to jungle all day; my mum's a raver. The best thing she's shown me is maybe The Stone Roses.
What's been the most obscure discovery you've made on your own?
Daniel Johnston is someone I discovered on Youtube that's weird but wonderful. He's a songwriter, he's the guy that wrote “Casper the Friendly Ghost”. He used to record all his stuff in his basement himself on a tape deck, and to give someone else a tape he'd have to re-record the whole album from start to finish, playing everything and singing everything, and he did it over thousands of times to hand it out to people. I think he lost the plot a bit. I think it was the acid.
What's a music obsession of yours that you think people would be surprised to know you were into?
The guitar. I love playing songs and writing songs on the guitar, but I'm saving that until later later. I taught myself to play it around 3 years ago.
Are we gonna have a slowthai rock album at some point?
It might not be rock but it will certainly be guitar based, yeah.
Which old artist have you discovered recently, and somewhat belatedly, who you now absolutely love?
Elliott Smith. Did you know he died by stabbing himself in the heart? I knew “Needle in the Hay” from The Royal Tenenbaums, but I'd never really gone into his discography. I was listening to that again recently and thought 'I love this tune' so I downloaded a couple albums and fully went for it.
What was the first music discovery you made?
Because it was my own choice to go and buy it, I would say Linkin Park Meteora. I went into a CD shop and listened to it and was like "this is sick, I'm getting it". The only reason I went in there was that I had nothing else to do and I could only really get a CD with my money, I couldn't get anything else.
I spent so much money on CDs in HMV as a teenager.
And posters! I used to have so many posters on my wall and now I've got nothing… I've got a tapestry on my wall.
You're all grown up.
It's Jesus holding a rat. Everything is God's creature – it might be a rat but you look at it and think 'Jesus is just being Jesus'. Rats are only vermin because of us – they only started carrying disease because we used to dash shit out the window and they started eating it as the easy route.
What's one music recommendation that changed your life?
SpaceGhostPurrp – it was after A$AP Rocky dropped his first tape which SpaceGhost produced. After that he dropped his first album Mysterious Phonk: Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp – it really resonated with me. I think he changed hip-hop; that's the start of mumble rap. He is the start. That album from start to finish is flawless, it's what it's meant to be, it's the way it's meant to be. No-one's really topping that for originality.
Which three albums that you discovered accurately capture you as a child, a teenager and an adult?
One that I discovered as a child but describes me as a teenager is The Streets – A Grand Don't Come For Free. For my childhood: obviously Eminem – The Slim Shady LP, and as an adult… either Nas Illmatic or The Miseuducation of Lauryn Hill.
What’s the strangest remix/sample that’s stuck in your mind?
The sample used in “Murda” by Klashnekoff – I don't know what the sample is though.
What song have you discovered recently that you want played at your funeral?
I was actually talking about this the other day… it changes a lot *laughs*. Right now it's Radiohead – “Karma Police”.
What's the strangest genre you've unexpectedly come across, and enjoyed?
Gabba! Gabba is the weirdest thing… but I don't like it. One that I like that no one else seems to like whenever I play it to people is MC Bin Laden. Then there's Tommy Cash, but it's one of them where I can't figure out if I like it or not. It's weird.
What's the most dire thing someone's recommended to you, and you can’t get into?
House. Maybe it's because it's big in Northampton where I'm from, but I just don't like it. It's boring.
What's your go-to aux cord track or release right now?
Rosalía – “Malamente”. She's the full package, she's gonna be the next Rihanna.
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