- Words Mike Vinti
- Photography Jack Orton
slowthai is here to make sure people know that life outside the city isn't as pretty as it seems.
Social media has changed the way we interact with our favourite artists. More than just musicians, they’re now personalities, people we can interact with on the daily. Now more than ever we’re aware that musicians are pretty normal people, they just have a weird job. Every week we get to know one of our favourite SoundCloud heroes, internet dating style, in our new column, Internet Crush.
If you were on a tour of UK in search of the future of British rap music, chances are you wouldn’t stop off in Northampton. The East Midlands town has a long ancient history dating back to bronze age and the Romans and three years ago it was voted the ‘Best Place to Live and Start a Business’ by Experian, hardly the usual surroundings where grime thrives. However dig a little deeper and you’ll find that Northampton suffers from the same rising poverty and inequality as the rest of the UK. A report that came out in 2015, a year after that Experian vote, found that one in four children in the town lives in poverty.
It’s this side of his hometown that Northampton MC slowthai wants to expose with his gritty, confrontational and often just plain terrifying take on grime, UK rap, trap and beyond. Sick of those that paint life outside of the big cities as serene and comfortable he felt compelled to take up a mic and tell the rest of the country what life can really be like for those in the neglected areas of otherwise well-to-do towns and cities. So far he’s had huge success, his debut EP landed a few weeks back and has been met with acclaim from the scene and beyond and he’s won over plenty of fans with his paranoid, unfiltered flow and twisted instrumentals. While he paints vivid pictures in his lyrics his public persona is still shrouded in ominous mystery so we wanted to get beyond the grills and find out what makes slowthai tick.
Northampton isn’t exactly a hotbed of rap music – how did you start MCing?
slowthai: Being surrounded by the olders. Even when I didn’t really understand or have a concept of what I wanted to do, MCing seemed cool, it was something to do with the mandem.
I was always that young raggo yout, spending a lot of time with people from my estate. Back then it was clashing, getting waved and running set. There was this place called Treasure Box Recordings, a local MC called Frustration set it up in their Mum’s house. It had bright yellow walls, writing all over them – tags from other MCs, lyrics, graffiti. It was like a Northampton version of Jammer’s basement.
Your sound is very dark – you rap about aspects of life that are more commonly associated with inner-city rappers –where does that influence come from?
I write about everyday life, things we all go through. Life may seem all good outside of the cities in the UK, but everywhere has a slum, a ‘not so nice’ part of town. In Northampton, that’s where I was raised – that’s the story I feel I need to tell right now
Who do you roll with?
I’ve got a pretty tight circle of friends, most of which are family. I used to be all over the place, bouncing between different groups, trying to please everyone around me – that’s not good for your mental health, please yourself first. Sometimes you’ve gotta cut some leafs in order to grow and flourish.
Describe your sound in just a sentence:
It’s all a bit mad innit.
I love the full rainbow, we don’t discriminate, what’s life without colour? [Laughs]
Right now, The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Last book you read:
48 Laws Of Power.
First single/album you ever bought?
Linkin Park — Meteora.
First band/act you ever went to see live?
[Laughs] When I was around 11 I saw Devlin & Ghetto in a Northampton club called Seduction.
My older cousin choke slammed me on the kitchen floor, those brown council house tiles, fully slumped my life.
What do you do in your spare time?
Making music is what I love to do, so I’m either playing guitar, on Logic or writing lyrics.
Are you a morning or evening person?
Wouldn’t say I’m either… some days I wake up feeling like a daffodil others I feel like a rotten tomato.
First song you ever wrote?
It was called ‘Dirt’, back when I was recording through headphones.
Favourite song of your own?
Kenny or an unreleased tracked titled ‘Mother’.
“I know the worlds my Oyster, but I’m just getting on the tube.” — Jesse James Soloman.
slowthai’s I WISH I KNEW EP is out now. He plays St. Pancras Old Church this Friday.
Follow Mike Vinti on Twitter.