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Slowthai - Ugly (Album Review)

Tuesday, 14 March 2023 Written by Jacob Brookman

‘Ugly’ is the third album from UK rapper Slowthai, presenting raw and introspective lyricism with dark garage-rock backing, giving a compelling view into the performer’s troubled psyche. 

It shows an impressive level of development from 2021’s ‘Tyron’, bringing rage-led hip hop to the table that recalls, in the arrangements at least, Cypress Hill, late-era Public Enemy and the too often forgotten UK hip hop outfit, Mark B and Blade.

The musician, born Tyron Frampton, is not messing about: on opener Yum he declares “Excuse my while I self destruct, ‘cos I don’t give a fuck.” It’s memorable, occasionally puerile stuff that pushes you away as much as it pulls you close. 

The Northampton artist often appears to be confronting the fanbase he solidified on the previous record, encouraging them to mosh and grab each other by the shirt lapels while shouting beer-soaked lyrics in eachothers' faces. In this way the style feels rather like Sleaford Mods.

This is also represented on the big single Feel Good. It’s a stompy pop track built around a minimal guitar riff and a circular-sounding lyrical refrain. The artist this track seems to ape is Mancunian contemporary Aitch, who has also blended humour-laced lyrics with straight pop tropes. It’s not brilliant but one does suspect it will cut through with people.

Elsewhere, one of the most interesting tracks is Never Again. This starts with a jazzy spoken word skit before dropping into a sort-of live drum ‘n’ bass sound with rather fantastical storytelling over the top. It’s an epic in the context of the album and blends a 4Hero sound in with the grimey rhymes. Not bad at all.

This album should land fairly well with Slowthai’s fanbase, but it doesn’t really feel like it will broaden the rapper’s appeal with the public at large. One of the reasons for this is that the rock sound that he presents on ‘Ugly’ is not a terribly compelling one—there are very successful forays into rap rock, but one is hard pressed to think of one from the past 10 to 15 years.

It does nonetheless show an artist who is trying to carve out his own path. The album features no collaborations and with that it demonstrates a kind of artistic integrity that feels a bit unusual. Maybe it will sound better in time.

Slowthai Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed September 20 2023 - GLASGOW Barrowland
Thu September 21 2023 - MANCHESTER O2 Victoria Warehouse
Fri September 22 2023 - LONDON Alexandra Palace Great Hall
Sat September 23 2023 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham

Compare & Buy Slowthai Tickets at Stereoboard.com.


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