All photos by Dave Neale
It could have been a regular evening in Anfield. But for the group of six young musicians and producers, this particular late April Tuesday night was a special one. Slowthai visited them at the Liverpool Lighthouse, home of the Levi’s Music Project for 2018 to 2019 – and we’ll tell you more on that later. But the Northampton rapper was on hand to lead a workshop about his music, walking the students step-by-step through how he makes a song – and talk to the budding talents there about his journey as an artist.
Guided by project facilitator Yaw Owusu, Slowthai related stories of his younger years. He covered everything from growing up in Northampton, abortive job stints, and revelation of going to college – where he studied sound engineering – to making friends with different musical tastes that took him outside of his comfort zone. All this was peppered with his energetic, singular philosophies on talent, graft and the ways an artist express themselves. As he later told us, “I was excited about the workshop. It’s a different thing for me – I’ve never really had to explain myself. I just hope I gave people a good insight into what I do and hopefully inspire them to do their own thing and see where it takes them.”
He also presented his track “GTFOMF.” Breaking it down, he homed in on the process he and his regular producer, Kwes, follow while in the studio. From irregular drum lines, to sample packs and minute vocal embellishments, he gave a comprehensive look behind the scenes at what makes his up his unique genre-bending blend of music that speaks to the young British experience in nuanced, textured ways.Students were then given the opportunity to ask questions, covering topics including writer’s block, appreciating milestones as an artist, the art of crafting music videos and Slowthai’s upcoming album, Nothing Great About Britain. Vitally, the interplay between Slowthai and the students on the day displayed just how much local music resources can do for aspiring artists. Levi’s, in their work on the Levi’s Music Project, have invested in that for years. You may remember, in 2016, that they collaborated with Skepta on a Tottenham, north London, community space. Then in 2017, they expanded to Manchester and Birmingham, calling on the talent and experience of rapper Mist and band Everything Everything.This time round, the Levi’s Music Project – with its lead mentor Loyle Carner – has provided 13 young students in Liverpool with a unique eight-month programme consisting of workshops, talks, recording sessions, production classes and more, soon to culminate in a live showcase at Liverpool’s Sound City festival over the May bank holiday weekend. As Slowthai said to us, after the workshop, “It was just good to speak to people in a similar position to where I was a few years ago.” He hopes the students walk away knowing “that there’s no rules to this shit and that as long as you believe in your art and have a desired end point, you’ll make it”.Noisey are partnering with the Levi’s Music Project for an afterparty on Sunday 5 May, where Slowthai will be joined by Ms Banks, Liverpool’s own Aystar, London-based DJ BAADNEWS plus performances from some of the LMP students. Get your tickets here.