Just looking at the tracklist of slowthai’s second album, TYRON, you can tell how important the sequencing is to it. As a fan, why is sequencing even a thing of note when it comes to listening to an album? Well, I feel like when it’s done well it helps shape how you experience the story and the sound of it.
For example, this album is only 35 mins long but has been presented as a 2 disc album with the tracks on the first disc stylised in all caps and the second disc all lower case. That is a very deliberate choice that goes hand in hand with slowthai’s message of mental well being surrounding the album.
This made me want to try to rearrange the tracks of the album myself into the sequence of someone going through the stages of grief. Why? Just to see how it lines up with the year he’s had, controversies and how he dealt with being forced to stop and reflect on his journey so far thanks to an international pandemic. I feel those course of events must have played a significant part in shaping what the album and its presentation is about.
I wanted to push that idea a little further, and see what else it unearths if anything.
What seems to be at the centre of TYRON isn’t something completely new to this album. We saw the beginnings of it on his first album Nothing Great about Britain which is a sort of rags to riches story with this boy from Northampton beating the odds and becoming a loveable rogue celebrated by the same people who’d avoid him a couple of years ago. “Drug Dealer”, a bonus track on the first album, in my headcanon, doubles up as a direct response to being defined by the success of his breakout hit “T n Biscuits”. As much as he’s come to accept and claim his past, he appears to still have conflicting feelings about it.
TYRON is a whole album of that same exercise. He starts off reminding us of his old ways (“MAZZA”), saying he grew up around shotters, coppers and alcoholics (“45 SMOKE”).
On most of Disc 1, he comes across as hostile and disappointed at people not acknowledging the social acrobatics he’s managed to do and also at people expecting more from him. The sound is an exciting nasty-murky rush. It’s easy to miss the substance without the context, it doesn’t jump out at you but it is there. Not much digging is needed to figure out that a lot of braggadocio in rap music is just a cool Avirex jacket on top of a bunch of other emotions and trauma and frankly when rappers try to come across as emotional it is often very corny.
As mentioned before, there are flashes of introspection here and there but what has interested me the most on Disc 1 is slowthai’s throwaway comments on “MAZZA”, about suicidal tendencies and soon after on how he never felt love before the drugs. They seem so out of place there, like his mask is slipping off.
When things turn over to Disc 2, the content isn’t wildly different to tracks like “PLAY WITH FIRE” or “DEAD”. Bitter feelings still linger but there definitely is a more sullen tone and he sounds saddened that these preconceptions of who he is still hung over his head despite trying to grow away from it. None of the tracks feels like a drag though, with Ty’s performance and the production remaining great throughout. As straight forward as his content is here, it does feature some of the most expressive moments on the album. His delivery of the first two lines on “adhd” is perfect. You really feel like you’re sinking with him on “i tried” when the beat switches.
Alongside the self-loathing though, Ty always manages to keep his mindset traced on moving forward whether he feels like it or not. “feel away” is a strangely cheerful song about breaking up and accountability with a glass half-full perspective. The real spiritual closer in my opinion is “nhs”, which Ty himself brands such a happy song. It’s the brightest note on a sad album. It plays brilliantly on the simple duality theme that the album is tied up in. Yin yang. All the best shit’s got balance.
1. Shock & Denial;
PLAY WITH FIRE
4. Depression & loneliness;
5. Upward turn & reconstruction;
6. Acceptance & Hope;