The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes
May 7th 2019
It’s Champions League semi-final second leg night. slowthai’s second favourite team Liverpool [he’s a Cobbler, don’t you know] are already 3-0 down from the first leg. They have been belittled everywhere over the past week. And for Liverpool you could read slowthai’s hometown of Northampton in the past couple of years. The football team were relegated in 2018, amid bafflement at how they’ve managed to lose a £10.25 million loan from the Borough Council. On top of all that the County Council declared itself “effectively bankrupt”. The bottom of the pile is real gritty, as slowthai tells us.
As tonight’s show progresses our 99p rapper is getting score updates. “It’s 3 nil to us now! No way!” That wide smile creeps just a little wider. He’s fired up for this short run of small venue dates: his way of connecting with the fans he loves so dearly, on as even keel as can be had. Everyone expects him to go interstellar when his debut album Nothing Great About Britain drops, and fans will struggle to get such close-ups again.
This gig is an explosive mix of righteous anger at the state our nation, and a celebration of youth recognising one of their own flawed companions. The man born Tyron Frampton is a constantly whirling physical presence, aided by his balaclava-clad hype man [and regular producer] Kwesi Darko. Sweat levels get exponential pretty much from the off, when ‘Polaroid’s “Kodak moment/Polaroid picture/Shake it, yeah yeah yeah” refrain initiates.
Over eleven songs here his people bounce, take videos, and shout choreographed banter/faux abuse at each other. He splits the crowd, sets up mosh pits, and generally directs us with the touch of an old-style film auteur. His Freddie Mercury-esque vocal call-and-response bit is so funny even he can’t get to the end of it without falling into hysterics. Then mid-set he reveals a unnamed and unreleased collaboration with US rapper Denzel Curry, hinting at future travels beyond the album already. The two 24 year-olds reaching across the Atlantic sounded like an enticing prospect.
‘Doorman’ is blistering, natch, and once the swirling mosh settles there’s a dozen people up on stage with him. It’s his party and we can most definitely come in, it seems – and all for the price of a cone with flake.
slowthai is the 4-0 surprise victory that changes the course of history. This is another gorgeous moment to highlight him. The Shoe Army marches on.
T N Biscuits
Unnamed collaboration with Denzel Curry
Words by Phil Moore. Photos by David Jackson.
Nothing Great About Britain is out May 17th. Pre-order here