slowthai speaks of his love for his hometown of Northampton on the eve of his album release
“I just love it”, says slowthai when asked about his home town...
“This year I've travelled to so many places but I always just want to come home.
“It doesn't matter how much fun it is - I always miss Northampton.”
It’s been whirlwind 12 months for 24-year-old Tyron Frampton.
It’s the eve of the release his hugely anticipated debut album Nothing Great About Britain and slowthai is one of the most in-demand rappers in the UK.
From appearing on the pages of every influential newspaper and magazine going to recently performing past single Doorman on Soccer AM – Ty is being pulled in every direction.
Continuing to talk about the town in which he was born and raised he says: “I miss the smell of Northampton.
“I miss when you get off the train, when it's raining and you can smell the hops from Carlsberg.
“I’m proud of everything. All the good press and all the bad press it’s ever had. I love it.”
slowthai has just finished his 99p tour – a run of intimate shows across the UK which sold out in seconds to fans who had pre-ordered his LP.
“These people mean everything to me, I wouldn't be anything without them,” he explains.
“I'm inspired by people. When I see the reactions in the crowd at the smaller shows, we can have proper banter and a laugh.”
At the Craufurd Arms in Wolverton last week, the 250-plus fans packed inside endured sweltering temperatures to see a performer at the top of his game.
In contrast, March’s Brexit Bandit UK tour featured sold out shows in front of up to 1,400 people a night at some of the county’s best-known venues.
“You end up on autopilot,” Ty says. “It’s been exciting going place to place but there’s no time to digest it and take it in. It’s tunnel vision.
“I’ve been to New York, Dubai, South Africa - it’s mad. I never thought when I was in my bedroom or walking around Northampton I would even travel outside the UK.
“It sounds mad, but my whole life I've visualized and seen in my head I was going to play to crowds.
“You have that dream when you're sitting in your bedroom and it’s clicking into place.”
In December, slowthai featured on the BBC’s Sound Of list - overnight propelling his music a global audience. However, he remains blasé about the inclusion.
“For me it doesn’t change the price of fish. I woke up the same person,” he says.
“It’s nice to have approval but the same time no list can make a difference.
“I could be on a million lists or no lists, I’d still be doing my thing.”
Sitting, sipping on a Guinness and black in the Picturedrome talking to the Chron, despite being semi-hidden behind a black hoodie, several people recognise Ty, keen to come up say hello, shake his hand and pass on their best wishes. It’s something he’s getting used to.
“From growing up I always had this thing because I had the nickname ‘Slow Ty’ and I was a bad kid or whatever, people knew me already. I’d meet people and think they were taking the mick.
“It’s uplifting. You never know what it can do for someone’s day.
“I’ve always been taught by my mum to treat a homeless person same way you would treat the CEO of a top company.
“You never know what someone's been through, they could have had it all and lost it all - or they could have had nothing and just want to live that way.
“You never know who's going to teach you something so you always have to treat people with equality, respect and listen to them.”
Largely recorded in early 2018 in East London, with Kwes Darko producing, slowthai’s debut LP Nothing Great About Britain is a succession of candid snapshots of British life.
Drugs, disaffection, depression and the threat of violence all loom in his visceral verses, as does hope, love and defiance.
The LP follows last year’s Runt EP and a string of singles released over the past few years on Soundcloud.
It’s cover sees slowthai in stocks in front of block of flats in Spring Boroughs.
“I wanted it to be a class clown type of thing, I wanted to be the laughing stock,” Ty explains.
“For me, because it’s the first place I went from hospital with my mum, Spring Boroughs is an important place so it’s important we did it there.
“The flats are getting demolished, they’re gentrifying everything and pushing the people out that matter.”
Reflecting on the record, he says: “Even if you ran the 100m in a world record time you’d think you could have done it quicker.
“I got to a place where it was complete. Imperfections sometimes make characteristics.
“I'm blessed, happy and ready to make the next thing.”
Talking about some of his favourite tracks on the record, slowthai said: “Crack is about relationships and addiction and how the two align, like a love and hate relationship.
“The opening lyric is ‘I love you like a crackhead likes crack’.
“I’ve been around a lot of addiction, a lot of people who have bad habits and haven't been able to escape.
“This is my love letter to them. It was called Blame You because, when people have no-one else to blame for their own demise, they just look for someone else.
“Northampton’s Child is about my life, my mum and where I come from.
“It tells you where I was born what year was born, my race, my ethnicity and takes you through my back story and how I've become who I am.
“The whole project in general is my viewpoint and perspective of growing up in Britain and how it was for me.
“The whole message and point of it is ‘what is important’ and it’s community, family and the small places we forget about.
“It’s not royalty which makes me feel patriotic, it’s the bond between by brothers, my sisters, my family, my friends and my town. I feel we forget about all those places.
“This album is about empowering people and giving it back to the small places.”
The album features collaborations with Skepta and Jaykae on Inglorious and Grow Up respectively with Slaves producing Missing.
A believer in the law of attraction, slowthai admits when growing rapper Skepta “was a God” to him and his friends.
While at Northampton College, he recalls watching Slaves play on Jools Holland and knowing he wanted to work with them.
“It was the same with Jaykae,” he says. “His story and his way of his life completely aligned with mine.”
Elsewhere on the record, Dead Leaves celebrates cutting off toxic relationships while the nostalgic Toaster explores the construct of UK society.
While the album’s title infers there’s Nothing Great About Britain, Ty is happy to reveal there are things which are – including community and wanting for nothing.
“The connection of just knocking your neighbour and asking for sugar,” he explains.
“Or going into the boozer and having a proper sit down.
“You don't have anything but you don't want for no more.
“People who have a lot less have a better time than people who have everything.
“It’s that connection, that bond. Standing and feeling that we're in this together.
“It’s community. That’s what’s great for me.”
In video for the album’s title track, Ty sets about systematically dismantling the stereotypes of British culture, bating the Royals and lampooning the bluster that has ultimately led to Brexit and a surge in nationalism.
slowthai extracts King Arthur’s sword from a rock, giving him rightful sovereignty of Britain and making him King.
Talking about the royal family, Ty says: “How can we pay tax to keep someone in a house, how can we pay for their wedding and then pay for their child’s birth and be happy with this?”
“I love the fairy-tale of the Queen but what separates them from me?
“Why are you entitled to that? They say Lucifer was cast out of heaven as an angel because he asked the question ‘why do you have so much power?’ “To me, that is a question which isn’t too bad.”
Talking about his inspirations, Ty explains it can be as simple as being in the pub or walking along a road and overhearing conversations.
Musically he, mentions The Streets while also referencing Northampton’s Blood Visions, Ethan P. Flynn, Eminem and Nick Cave.
“He's lived the life,” he explains of the latter. “Trauma, tribulation and addiction. He’s done it all and got the t-shirt.”
He also mentions Northampton figures, including ‘50p Lil’ who features on some of his merchandise and graphic novel writer Alan Moore.
“Alan spoke to me when I was about 12. I think if I've never had that conversation I wouldn’t be here now,” slowthai explains.
“He’s a wizard, he’s Northampton's wizard. Some people just add magic and he's got that glisten in his eye.”
Ty’s wasn’t the easiest of upbringings. The oldest of three, he was raised by his mum.
He watched his stepfather hustle, his uncle struggle with addiction while grappling himself with his own racial identity, “I didn’t fit in with the group because I weren’t back nor white,” he explains.
Recalling his earliest music memories, Ty explains how his mum would listen to Sidewinder alongside garage, drum ‘n’ bass and jungle.
“I think my first musical voyage was when I went to Weston Favell,” he explains.
“I’d probably gone to get a McDonald's because that’s what I lived for as a kid – I’d get my pound cheeseburger and be the happiest kid in the world.
“There was a CD shop at Weston Favell, I went and bought Linkin Park’s Meteora. I put it on in store and I just clicked with it.
“I was nine-years-old, walking around, taking stuff in. I didn’t have no friends with me or my mum, I was just there, taking the CD and putting it in the machine to listen to.
“I didn’t know if I was allowed to do it, I just did it.”
Returning to his admiration of Mike Skinner, he explains his mum would regularly have the album Original Pirate Material playing at home.
“His voice is amazing. he's one of my main inspirations. “You have to relate what you doing to your home or what's the point.”
Next up for slowthai is a return to America before a series of summer festival shows in the UK, shows with Flume in Europe and potentially more UK headline shows this autumn.
While album number one is on the brink of release, Ty already has his next few projects mapped out in his head, revealing scant details other than saying there will be collaborations but also a successor to his debut.
Summing up his success, he explains: “I don't want to be for everyone, or just thought of as the cool thing. I want to connect with the people it actually matters to connect to and make a difference to their lives.”
Nothing Great About Britain is out on Friday, May 17. Limited edition versions are available via slowthai.com