A few years back, Tyrone “slowthai” Frampton’s daily routine involved staying up all night, sometimes dealing cannabis but mostly smoking it, and then sleeping it off during the day. By his own admission, he was lost and working his way through a lot of anger, only really getting excited by the prospect of drinking a cup of tea at his Nan’s house or beating one of his mates from the estate on FIFA. Yet, on this unseasonably hot April day, we find him confidently walking around Camden looking every bit the superstar, aware that critics are hoping upcoming debut ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ will forge a new path for UK rap like Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Boy In Da Corner’ did back in 2003, and maybe even help us all make sense of the unrelenting fuckery that is Brexit.
“Fuck, I just met slowthai!” exclaims one excited teenage fan (a steady stream enthusiastically approach him throughout the day) who’s granted a street-side selfie with the rapper. Throughout their exchange, he rocks a mischievous if slightly unhinged smile, a cross between Jack Nicholson’s Joker after murdering an enemy and punk anarchist Sid Vicious after scoring a bag of heroin. In-between having his picture taken, slowthai chats about problematic faves and how JPEGMAFIA’s chaotic banger ‘I Can’t Fucking Wait Til Morrissey Dies’ forced him to rethink The Smiths. “There’s a few Smiths songs I used to like, but that track was so hard, it’s got me like: ‘Meat is murder? Nah, you’re just a fucking prick, mate!”
The riveting way in which slowthai processes and translates British iconography - whether that’s Morrissey or our Queen, who he calls a “cunt” on ‘Nothing Great About Britain’’s opener - is one of the reasons why he’s got the music press so excited. His debut moves from mocking the toxic masculinity of far-right group the English Defence League to referencing the brutish Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross and Eastenders OG Phil Mitchell, all at frenetic pace. It’s a once-in-a-generation record, the kind that’s able to shine a mirror on all things good and bad about British culture, and ask Brits whether they’re ashamed or proud of their reflection.
“Some British rappers might rap in a way that’s very general, because they don’t want their regionality to get in the way of them blowing up or getting a Drake co-sign, but that’s not me,” he explains. “I want to write references that you will only get if you’re British because, growing up, I was taught to be proud of where you come from. I could aim to take over the world and fall flat on my arse. This place where I’m from, Britain, is the only place I truly understand, as that’s my home, so why would I rap about anything else? So long as I can be the King of Northampton, that’s all that matters.”
As featured in the May 2019 issue of DIY, out now.