On his unapologetic debut album, Northampton rapper slowthai enters the echelons of working class musical hero that blatantly inspired his gritty sound; using brutality and admirable honesty to tell us all candidly that there is Nothing Great About Britain.
The first thing you probably notice about this album is it’s poignant title; it has been a working title for a long time now after dropping the bar “nothing great about Britain” in his 2016 breakout song Jiggle. Ever since then, Northampton’s finest Tyler Frampton has been on a mission to become the voice of a generation born on the breadline. His aim was always to spill home truths about council estate upbringings, and I am delighted to announce that his debut album has achieved that with flying colours.
My first listen of Nothing Great About Britain gave me a feeling of power, it oozed charisma and had the aurora of a classic. Think The Streets’ Original Pirate Material mixed with the most cutting edge moments of Plan B’s The Defamation of Strickland Banks, and you’ll have slowthai’s captivating musical persona. When Mike Skinner emerged in the early 00s he inspired millions to wear their council estate lifestyles proud, so we have absolutely have him to thank for this.
Unless you needed any reminding, slowthai is coming with a vengeance on this album as he in his words, is “coming Sid Vicious” with his bars and delivery. Whether that be cussing Queen Elizabeth II or calling out the discrimination shown by the police, there aren’t many moments on here where he doesn’t have his finger pressed firmly on the button of pressing social issues. Each of the eleven tracks tell you different tales about modern lifestyles for the lower working classes, shattering perceptions while simultaneously mocking the way it is portrayed.
Night life and substance abuse are hot topics on many of the album highlights, such as the Mura Masa collaboration on Doorman; a modern day punk-infused track that cuts through with powerful production and aggressive vocals. It’s like Mount Kimbie & King Krule’s Blue Train Lines on speed, firing from the hip to describe a wild night of booze, drugs and general stereotypical intoxicated British behaviour.
Skepta’s inclusion on Inglorious gives the song star power as he delivers a brilliant feature which appears to trigger the absolute best of slowthai too. Both are ice cold in their performances and together they have made one of the best British rap songs in recent memory. As a matter of fact, you could say a whole host of the tracks on here are in that Best of British category, sounding better and better the more time goes on.
Production wise this thing is as big a triumph as it is lyrically, using slick sampling as well as keen instrumentation to intertwine retro garage and bordering on grime beats. The hi-hats on Gorgeous work so beautifully alongside the sampled vocal harmonies and piano keys; something Tyler grabs with open arms and flows over elegantly. The moments of musical violence on tracks like Dead Leaves and the Halloween-sounding Missing are equally as welcome on here as the sweet and melodic flavours of Toaster (pun absolutely intended).
Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give the album is the narrative and structure it holds. The metaphorical sandwich of this project is one of sublime variation. The essentials of the ‘bread’ (first and last songs) serve as bookmarks of the journey slowthai has taken both in life and on the album, while the ‘filling’ between it is tasteful and vibrant. The opening title track is littered with popular culture references while also taking a microscopic glance at the depressed nature of British society, hence why he sees Nothing Great About Britain; while the album’s finale Northampton’s Child, takes on a more autobiographical tone and looks at the eye-opening way Tyler Frampton the boy became slowthai the rapper.
Deeply personal, gritty, and British to the core, slowthai has made a major statement here. While Nothing Great About Britain may raise concerns with it’s title, it is actually an album full of hometown pride, brimming with patriotism and desperate to provoke change. In just one rude awakening, Tyler Frampton’s name has become hot property and one which should be remembered for years to come; he has mapped his own way to the top and he is doing so with an admirable lack of conformity. He calls himself scum in a way so tongue-in-cheek that the media can’t demonise him, he’s beat them to the punch and proceeded to create a victory lap for the working class.