James Mellen
James Mellen

Bristol-based writer, specialising in musings on the world of music and fashion.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Label: Method Records

Northampton’s slowthai is arguably the quintessential bad boy of music right now. A myriad of hits and controversies, his quite simply normal personality and demeanour has made him a man of the people. Lacking any filters or pretences, Tyron Frampton is in a constant state of reinvention, and this third album is him at his very best. This could quite easily be the album of the year – it easily is so far.

‘UGLY’ is slowthai’s third studio album, following 2021’s ‘TYRON’ which saw Frampton exploring a softer, more vulnerable side. That isn’t the case on ‘UGLY’Vulnerable yes, soft – occasionally. This record boasts some of the most creative production heard on a UK hip hop project potentially ever; pounding synths and industrial sounds shake even the biggest of speakers.

Opener ‘Yum’ is frantic, explosive, setting a foundation for a record teeming with huge instrumentals and some seriously up close and personal lyricism. ‘Wotz Funny’ is a sure-fire punk banger, a sleazy vocal delivery from Frampton, his charisma spilling over and spraying like a shaken can of lager. Even on recordings, his smile and energy shines through, attesting to his high calibre as a performer.

Despite his knack for utter chaos, Frampton shows his versatility with the gorgeous, breakbeat pushed ‘Never Again’ (feat. Ethan P Flynn): a calmer moment, a pause for breath during the beautiful relentlessness of this album. The record is expansive, distorting lines between genres in an incredibly fluid fashion. Nothing is forced or pastiche and every decision has been carefully curated, though still holding a level of the havoc slowthai is so lovingly known for. 

This sound can be traced back to the definite industrial hip-hop group, Death Grips, but retains a freshness, maybe in part to the unique timbre of Frampton’s voice, or the production wizards behind the crushing beats and nightmarish sound design. Post punk royalty Dan Carey handled the bulk of the production, with some incredible contributions from guitar virtuoso and production extraordinaire Jacob Bugden (beabadoobee), Jockstrap’s Taylor Skye, and Dublin’s favourite noisemakers Fontaines D.C. (who contribute to the haunting title track). These join the armada along with long-time collaborator and close friend Kwes Darko; a slowthai record couldn’t exist without Kwes.

This album is, quite simply, a triumph. It’s fresh, innovative and a clear new chapter for an already acclaimed artist. The openness of Frampton to allow others into his circle is a decision that is reaping nothing but the most fruitful rewards. 

Listen to ‘UGLY‘ here: