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Excuse me, madam, you don’t know Son Raw from Adam.
The UK music scene’s boom and bust cycle is exhausting. As soon as grime was back, it was dead, and in its place industry players backed the far more marketable (and less politically engaged) sounds of Afrobeats. That wasn’t inherently bad, the stuff goes down easy and everyone likes a summer banger. But two summers in and it’s all a bit exhausting, particularly given the equally interesting UK drill scene is waging a constant battle for its existence in the face of institutional repressing. You can sense a genuine hunger for something new right now – and something that avoids the poles of pop aspiration and hopeless nihilism.
It just might be Slowthai. Straight out of Northampton, a Mindlands locale rural enough that he’s reclaimed the slur “farmer” as a badge of pride, he’s different enough to escape easy categorization but with enough charisma to avoid any underground pigeonholes.
Yes, there’s grime in his flow – “Drug Dealer,” the lead single off his latest EP RUNT, flips Dizzee Rascal style strings and flows into England’s version of country rap – but also Hip Hop’s slower paced flows and even Tricky’s outsider paranoia. On “GTFOMF,” the stoned minor key loops defining current Drill buckle against his flow – an animated yelp completely at odds with the screwfaced seriousness that currently defines emceeing in the city.
There’s humor there too – I can’t think of another emcee that’s threatened to “punch my uncle up” on a hook.
Ultimately though, Slowthai’s appeal comes down to just how much emotion he conveys through that voice – you might check for his music’s novelty only to find a much deeper experience. RUNT is only 13 minutes and the songs blast by with a punk rock energy, but it’s also structured like an album and hints that given the time and space to develop his thoughts, Slowthai will have a lot more to say.