In the quest for personal change, acceptance is always the first step. More introspective than the politically-led ’Nothing Great About Britain’, ’TYRON’ sees slowthai striving to locate the greys between life’s black and whites, offering up context to some of his less admirable conduct in recent years. If the first record was about action, this one is about thought - not an excuse for past indiscretions so much as the suggestion that sometimes, allowing people space for growth is perhaps more useful than indefinitely rehashing old immaturities.
For a record born out of a humbled mindset, the first half doesn’t pull any punches. In near-caricature of his ‘bad boy’ image, ’WOT’ ‘MAZZA’ and ‘CANCELLED’ (all in caps for further hater-baiting) are trad braggadocio rap, the sort that will enamour Ty with international audiences. It’s exciting to see him moving with the heavy hitters, but he’s perhaps a little too generous with the features - like an awkward teen excited to be allowed to sit with the older kids at lunch, he shaves off a lot of his more endearing quirks in the face of A$AP Rocky and Skepta’s solid appearances, allowing his guests to run the house. slowthai doesn’t need to be anybody else’s hypeman - this is his story to tell.
The puffier-chested side of his persona is still perfectly enjoyable, but when he packs away his bluster for the second half of the record, he creates something truly memorable. Gentle, heartfelt singles ‘feel away’ and ‘nhs’ conjure disarmingly-simple metaphor that puts you directly in his shoes, inviting empathy without pity. “Do stuff I regret / feel embarrassed tomorrow” acknowledges ‘Push’, an airy hook from LA’s Deb Never providing gentle reassurance that redemption and self-acceptance are only as far away as the effort you’re willing to make. On ‘i tried’ and ‘focus’, he truly nails transatlanticism - languid R&B beats in the vein of early Kanye create plenty of space for him to roam around the blurry Polaroids of his childhood, piecing experiences together to figure out who he has become. It’s ’Take Care’ if Drake grew up on the estates of Northampton rather than Toronto, but more than that, it’s inherently 2021 slowthai, shedding light on the tricky nature of social-media-era finger-pointing without denying his own role in the cycle.
Maybe it is precisely because of the contrast between parts one and two that ‘TYRON’ feels so poignant. At once the pugnacious punk-rapper with a point to prove and the quieter, introspective wordsmith-at-work, slowthai has done a remarkably efficient job of reclaiming his own narrative, demonstrating the value of both talking and listening. You can’t have one side of him without the other, but maybe you don’t need to - there is a lot to admire in this kind of openhearted stocktake. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess - all the paths are back open.
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