“Work so hard I deserve not to give a fuck.”

slowthai has definitely been a busy man. After a rapid rise to fame in 2019 with the controversial and polarizing “Nothing Great About Britain,” he came back to pleasantly surprise me two years later on “TYRON.” He put his all into the album which almost had to be expected given he used his birth name as the title, and I proclaimed him a man who had “successfully bridged the gap from local to international.” Perhaps that was premature. On tracks like the Darko and Dan Carey produced “Selfish,” slowthai is pulling back on being a crossover international artist. He delves back into the figurative and literal grime he came from. The video doesn’t hide anything from the viewer in portraying slowthai as a prisoner of his own success.

“We get what we deserve/somehow, we never learn.” You won’t mistake slowthai for one of the smiling happy people holding hands any time soon. While I appreciate his brutal honesty and his willingness to flip a middle finger to becoming mainstream, there’s every chance in the world that a track which often sounds like power drills boring through human skulls already fulfilled his wishes. This sound was designed for a very specific audience and no other. That’s a recurring theme throughout “UGLY.” Even a song like “Feel Good” is only masquerading as a pop tune. It might be the one song to break out of this slowthai album, but the dark undercurrent to it is obvious from the chorus alone. It’s as though Tyron is trying to say the sentiment until he convinces himself it’s true through sheer repetition.

When slowthai poses the question “Wotz Funny” on the album, you already know the answer. “Single mother, three kids, no butter/but she’s got a pair of tits, gotta get it how you live/pretty people do the ugliest things.” Ain’t a damn thing funny for Mr. Frampton or any of the listeners. This is an album from a disaffected youth meant for the equally troubled. slowthai is positioning himself on this album as the Suicidal Tendencies of UK rap, and it’s a pair of Doc Martens he fits into well. I don’t think I can even share the visualizer for “25% Club” without it disappearing from this review. That’s strange given it might be the closest Tyron gets to upbeat, yet the clip shows him severing his hand off his arm and staring at it as the blood pours out. Yikes. The song he calls “HAPPY” is far more dour though, telling you repeatedly it’s “okay to cry, okay to cry.”

I’ve got the distinct feeling that much like his debut album, “UGLY” is going to have wildly different receptions both at home and abroad. Mr. Frampton could have easily cashed in following an album where he pulled in cameos ranging from A$AP Rocky to James Blake to Denzel Curry. The boy was made, and yet with this release, he’s very deliberately un-made himself in an extremely visible way. This isn’t a comfortable album to sip a proper cuppa to. Tyron picks at scabs until he’s a bloody mess and while it isn’t always easy to listen to, it is undeniably the vision of a man who refuses to be defined by his own success. It hurts me to say different choices in terms of the production would have made it more accessible, because I respect his intent to be inaccessible here. If I have to sum it up and put a bow on it, I think “UGLY” is an album that will probably be appreciated more 25 years from now than it is today. Good on you Tyron.

slowthai :: UGLY
7Overall Score