”Nothing Great About Britain” Album Reiew
Generally, I try to resist using terms like ‘voice of a generation’. The cliche, arbitrary and the overdone nature of the phrase gives you a pretentious, grandiose tone making the sentiment more about your egotism than appraisal. But Slowthai has truly captured a voice and attitude concurrent with the modern day youth of Britain, an attitude of frustration, anger, and apathy; stupified by the lies and distrust of politicians whilst it seems some apocalypse is just about to crawl over the horizon. Whether your rage is politically, environmentally, economically or just morally charged, we are stuck without an idea of which direction to go as there are just too many red flags, Slowthai is finding his way.
Slowthai is not necessarily tackling these issues in such an analytical way, his lyrics aren't for Question Time but that is the point. He has resonated with the feeling of the youth in Britain with acute precision, grasping the reality for the lost youth through his viper of a voice and venom of his lyrics. The jagged, murky style of production used throughout a lot of his work matched with a chainsaw viciousness spat behind that amiable grin and wired eyes paint an image of conflict, chaos, and control, something to unsettle the audience; to make a wave rather than just establish his name. This is something which was my original draw to Slowthai for the year or two of listening, Regardless of the music, Slowthai’s lyrics come from someone who has something to say. Whether it was cussing out people for wearing Fila or Santa for his broken boiler, he was finding targets for his anger and hitting. So hearing him call the Queen a cunt at the end of the title track “Nothing Great About Britain” did not disappoint.
As an album, Slowthai has succeeded in making a sound which captures a time and a culture close to the success of “Original Pirate Material”. With news breaking about a month before the album drop of a Mike Skinner collaboration, although pure speculation about which tracks he may have worked on, I suspect inspiration in regards to tracks like “Nothing Great About Britain” with those eerie string loops and disjointed drums. Or with that softer guitar loops over the garage style beats reminiscent of that “Everything Is Borrowed” period, leaving you in anticipation to hear Mike Skinner rattle of some colloquial fable, but the slurred rhymes of Slowthai's past with the authorities and home comforts are more of a deserving equal than a missed-shot tribute.
However, the album incorporates a multitude of different genres; culminating grime, post-punk influences, an almost Radiohead element in track “Missing”, and marked by the significant features within the album. The track “Inglorious” Features Skepta who, over the last couple years, seems to have adopted the role of Godfather of the UK rap scene. For most people, this title lies with Wiley, and I’m not suggesting it has been usurped. But having a feature, production or shout out from Skepta has been the handshake certifying the positions of artists like Jesse James Solomon, Octavian, Bakar, and now Slowthai as formidable figures in the scene. As well as this, the album also has a feature from prolific Birmingham rapper Jaykae, who has gained widespread acclaim within the UK rap scene over the last couple years for his powerful lyricism and delivery. His reflection of gritty Birmingham life has contributed to putting Birmingham on the map for emerging Grime and Hip-Hop. Also with Skepta’s Stamp of approval, his presence on the album cannot be understated. Jaykae's voice is a significant reflection on aspects of British life with huge relevance to the conversation Slowthai has created in this Album. Slowthai has manoeuvred from SoundCloud playlists and hatchback speakers to Skepta features. his words and work has placed him as one of the most individual and prolific voices in the UK rap scene, a community growing to acclaim with the support of each other.
In hindsight, from first hearing “Noddy” with the Bone Soda production last year after “T N Biscuits”, it’s easier to see the projection waiting for him in the releases following. And although he is now “certified” in the British music scene, no longer just on the youths radar but recognised across generation with a five-star review in the Guardian, the draw to Slowthai has always been that attitude you’ve felt boiling inside. His voice and delivery punctuates his lyricism like the spit in your scream. The line from Disneyland:
“Man I walk for miles for a draw in the rain to act bored and complain…You just sit and complain ‘bout how you sit and complain.”
Hits a chord with the 10-year austerity deep, broken Britain generation who are agitated, aggressive and restless. But it’s aggression not just at Britain but at themselves for the lack of mobility to do anything. The album holds the weight of our identity above our heads, a new crown to wear and a flag to burn. “Nothing Is Great About Britain” is a love letter to the youth of today. Slowthai’s stories of Northampton talk to peoples reality because whether you personally lived it or not, you are close to those who do, it’s a story you’ve heard through school, through parks, through pubs. It’s a reality for many and an identity for us. He’s the playlist for the nights driving around through lost towns looking for a Q, he’s a drunk ‘your mums smokes PCP’ stick and poke on a mates torso, he’s the burn in your eye from your rollie smoke, he’s kicking gravel at pigeons, he’s down ripping union jack bunting on the queens birthday, he’s a coke bottle shottie, he’s your mate crushing cans of K cider on the road in a pair of duct-taped docs, he’s the phlegm in your drink. He spits a cocktail of blood, teeth and bone all with that same grin, a lovable cynicism in which you can't resist smiling back.
Words: Will Sare