slowthai by Phil Smithies

Interview Class Of 2019: slowthai

This Northampton rapper is bringing small-town life to the big stage, one semi-naked show at a time.

Tyron Frampton - aka slowthai - is on a mission to prove that London is not the be-all-and-end-all for boundary-pushing grime and hip hop in the UK. Growing up on the outskirts of Northampton, his upbringing is at the core not just of his music, but his whole identity. “Home is where the heart is, that’s where my personality and who I am is; I’m from Northampton, it keeps me going,” he enthuses today, speaking on the phone ahead of his massive Alexandra Palace show supporting Slaves (which, FYI, he’ll go on to smash in chaotic, vomiting style).

Though his home town hasn’t exactly historically been a hotbed for buzzy new artists (“there’s always been the bands that go and play the pub circuits, there’s been blips in the scene, but then It just dies out,” he says), coming into 2019 it feels like slowthai could be the one to break the cycle. From spitting bars with his pals to selling out his recent ‘Circus’ tour and tearing each venue a new one, his trajectory’s already shooting skywards. “Everywhere has the potential, people have just got to stick it out a bit longer and stop giving up so easily,” he says.

The crux of the rapper’s success so far has been in carving out his own unique persona - one equally filled with playfulness and darkness, from the way he shoots manic, semi-terrifying grins throughout our photoshoot to the disturbing, bloody video for recent track ‘Polaroid’. “I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet,” he nods, “but I don’t actually fit in with anybody else. They’re all
doing their thing, being fully fledged grime or UK hip hop, but I feel like I’m on my own thing.

Class Of 2019: slowthai
Class Of 2019: slowthai
Class Of 2019: slowthai
slowthai by Phil Smithies
Class Of 2019: slowthai
Class Of 2019: slowthai
Class Of 2019: slowthai

“I feel like we’re really drawing in the people that feel it and cancelling out the ones that don’t give a fuck.”

“Everything we’ve ever built is from the ground up, the foundations are strong,” he continues. “Everyone that’s with us is actually with us, they’re not in it for the quick ride. I feel like we’re really drawing in the people that feel it and cancelling out the ones that don’t give a fuck.”

One thing that’s really drawing people in to slowthai is the genuine clout and weight behind his lyrics. On ‘T N Biscuits’ he encapsulates small town angst with a dark sneer, while ‘Drug Dealer’ sees him take aim at the low expectations and lack of options around him: “Nothing great about Britain / Same situation a boy was given”. “I’m not some American rapper with a bit of Auto-Tune that isn’t really saying anything. Everyone talks about being a rock star, but the fact of the matter is they don’t do anything,” he explains. “It’s all good making people dance, but are you actually benefiting them and using your voice for the greater good? No.”

Instead, slowthai wants to create music that people can get a sense of identity from. “I just want to help people achieve what they really want, make them realise that they can achieve it and no one can tell them that they can’t,” he explains. And while his high-energy live shows - stripping down to his boxers and bounding around the stage - could be seen as the confident work of a born extrovert, really they’re about finding that same sense of self. “If they can see me for who I am then they can see that there’s nothing to be scared of by being yourself,” he says. “You can be any size, shape, colour and you can still be comfortable with who you are.”

slowthai by Phil Smithies

“I’m not some American rapper with a bit of auto tune that isn’t really saying anything.”

From his raw, open lyrics to his edge-of-your-seat show, he’s creating something “all about like-minded people coming together, [being] part of something bigger”. Sometimes that bigger thing can get a bit messy, like a recent Dublin show where “someone cut me, someone got glassed, but we all had a good time and didn’t try to kill each other so… it was fun,” he laughs. Fundamentally slowthai is about community, in all its forms.

Ask him what he’d most like to achieve through his music and he’ll give you a plethora of answers, all summing up his creative yet conflicted mind. From world peace to anarchy. A happily ever after, to simply doing something nice for his family. Before finally, tailing off to explain how he’d like to turn into a phoenix, or perhaps a dolphin - no, the only black dolphin in the ocean. For now, meanwhile, he’s happy looking towards a more achievable goal.

Class Of 2019: slowthai
Class Of 2019: slowthai
Class Of 2019: slowthai

“You can be any size, shape, colour and you can still be comfortable with who you are.”

“I’m chasing down happiness, and there’s an album coming in 2019,” he says, “then I’m gonna get high, go on holiday and make more music.”

His aquatic fantasy ending might still be a way away, but the water world’s loss is our gain. slowthai is out here to do good, to make a difference and to do it in the most creative way possible. He’s making a splash on dry land just fine.

As featured in the December 2018/January 2019 issue of DIY, out now at stockists across the UK. Alternatively, read below, get a copy sent to your door, or subscribe for a full year.

More like this

Two Door On Tour!

Two Door On Tour!

On the campaign trail for new album ‘False Alarm’, we join the Bangor trio as they traverse the UK for a series of sweaty club show stop-offs (and an altogether larger Glastonbury crowning)…