In the saturated sphere of British rap music, it’s not often that a truly original character charges into the mainstream and demands undivided attention in quite the manner Slowthai has since his brash 2019 debut. Unconventional and unhinged, the Northampton artist has become notorious for his loud social commentary, and gritty and distinctive sound which carries through stunningly into his performances. In keeping with all of this, the rapper kicked off his September 30th performance at Ambika P3 by descending the steps of the subterranean venue, climbing over the steel banister, and walking to the stage singing a comically bad rendition of The Righteous Brothers’ ‘Unchained Melody’.
As part of the new Adidas ‘made Originals’ campaign, Friday night saw DJ collective Girls Don't Sync perform a vivacious set to open the show, which was enjoyable despite the relatively small crowd that came to watch it. However, as the night pressed on, fuelled by free drinks from the bar, the anticipation for Slowthai became more and more present, to the point it was almost physical.
Tinted in blue light, Slowthai (real name Tyron Frampton), made his bizarre way through the crowd to the stage, bursting out with violent shouts along the way. Turning slowly and almost stumbling toward the crowd in a way reminiscent of loose drunkenness, Frampton pulled his signature deranged grin before asking the crowd repeatedly, “Who’s here to have a good time?” with increasing aggression.
An explosion of energy took over soon after. Starting off with the overconfident and boastful single ‘ENEMY’, Slowthai proceeded to push his way into the crowd with a belligerence matched by his surrounding fans; a miniature moshpit immediately formed, and remained there all the way through the forty minute set.
After the rhythmic chanting of “I get lit,” during ‘ENEMY’, a roster of top songs was delivered to the audience, the setlist oscillating between hostility and sluggishness. ‘Doorman’ obliged everybody to move to its distorted instrumental, and was sung along to by the crowd’s dominant front row, which only grew louder with the Skepta collaboration ‘CANCELLED’, and during Denzel Curry’s manic verse over the screeching ‘PSYCHO’ (which the crowd filled in in Curry’s absence).
Despite the push-and-shove performance, there was still an aspect of intimacy, made even more special by the low stage. Fans would bump against Slowthai when he entered the crowd, but it seemed an invisible fence of respect surrounded the stage (which was no more than a couple of feet off the ground) when he returned.
In a similar dynamic to the tracklist of Slowthai’s second album ‘TYRON’, the performance became more sentimental as it went on, with Slowthai taking a break to sing in a high pitch: ‘‘...if you were serious, you would be more like you / ’cause you’re too scared to be yourself”, presenting the message behind his unbalanced persona.
By this time crouched on the floor, with the small group of avid fans around him singing every word, Slowthai chose ‘feel away’ to end the night; the song is a sweet macrocosm of the problems of life, featuring James Blake and Mount Kimbie. Looking directly at everyone as he passed, tinted blue under the hued lighting of the Adidas displays, Slowthai left the show confrontational and unafraid — just like how he started it.
Edited by Talia Andrea and Lucy Blackmur, Music Editors