Below the Simpsons logo, and adjacent to the mugshot of the Mona Lisa, slowthai – real name Tyron Frampton – has ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ scrawled on his stomach in capital letters. It’s not the most eye-catching tattoo the Northampton MC possesses, nor the most creative, but as shorthand for the 23-year-old’s lyrical preoccupations, political beliefs and confrontational flow, its tone and sentiment is bang on the money.
“Fuck Theresa May, man,” he snarls today, when I ask about his allegiances. His response won’t surprise anyone who saw the promotional campaign behind his forthcoming UK tour. To launch it, Ty encouraged fans to troll the PM on Instagram, by flooding her mentions with the hashtag #BrexitBandit. “It was the most interaction she’s ever had,” he cackles at the memory.
Like large swathes of the country, Ty isn’t exactly hyped about the UK’s imminent departure from the EU. “We’re losing in all aspects for the sake of what?” he seethes down the line from Ramsgate, where he’s been recording new material. “Because people who can’t be bothered to get a job feel like people are taking their jobs? Because people think we’re going to have a better NHS if we close the borders?
“We feel like, ‘We’re the British and we’re great’, but we’re a tiny speck on the Earth’s surface. We need to remember that. We need to be building bonds of love, sharing and bringing people together, rather than feeling like we’re fucking entitled to everything.”
Growing up on a housing estate in the East Midlands, Ty witnessed the destructive effects of social division first hand. “People were so quick to put other people down,” he recalls. “And because I’m mixed [race], I used to get called things by a lot of white people. Man was stereotyping, being racist.” Instead of succumbing to the negativity, he remembers the abuse strengthening his resolve to rise above his circumstances, “Otherwise I’d be sat in some shithole in Northampton doing nothing but watching people’s lives deteriorate, and mine amongst it.”
In 2019, it’s time to evolve. Fuck shit up. Rip down walls. Break barriers…
In just two years of “serious” writing, Ty has established himself as one of the most vital MCs in the UK, infamous not just for his murky productions, visceral verses and inventive videos, but for the gripping live shows, packed with punk energy. When he’s not being carried onstage in a coffin, he’s stood stripped to his boxers, wildly eyeballing the front rows and inciting venue-wide mosh pits.
“I just want everyone to fucking zone out and feel the music; for their eyes to roll back in their head,” he enthuses. “Because the best part is seeing people actually connect with you live. All the other shit, I fucking hate it. I like meeting people, but I hate all the falseness. Everyone in this industry is fake as fuck, and it’s boring.”
Fake is an insult you could never level at Ty, whose bars are searing, and lyrical focus heartfelt. Subjects tackled so far include social mobility (‘Doorman’), racism (‘Rainbow’) and toxic masculinity (‘Ladies’); in essence anything he feels passionately about. This unfiltered approach has already proved too real for Radio 1, who blacklisted his track ‘Drugdealer.’ But Ty remains unapologetic, “It’s a human right to have a freedom of speech, so why wouldn’t you say how you feel?” he shrugs. “I’m all about aggression. If anything pisses me off, I’ve got to address it.”
Pre-watershed radio might not be courting Ty just yet, but 2018 has been a landmark year for the rapper. “It’s been eye-opening and life-changing,” he reflects. “In 2017 I was having a lot of problems with addiction and I just lost my marbles a bit. As soon as I got to 2018, it was the first time I smiled and it wasn’t a synthetic smile; it wasn’t synthetic happiness. I felt like I’d climbed out of a hole, and every day in 2018 has been a blessing so far.”
And what’s next? “In 2019, it’s time to evolve. Fuck shit up. Rip down walls. Break barriers. And fucking laugh in the faces of those who put us down.”