The political landscape of the UK is fucked right now. Boris Johnson, the once lovable Tory clown, is now running the country unelected and the Brexit situation is heading to its car crash of a conclusion. Yet, these past few years of political unrest and rising social tension has inspired some of the most exciting anti-establishment music in decades. Slowthai is one of the artists leading the uprising.
Bubbling under the surface for a couple of years, oddball Northampton rapper Slowthai really started turning heads in 2018 with the riotous “T N Biscuits”. The seemingly innocuous opening line ‘DRUG DEALER, I WEAR NIKE NOT FILA’ hitting crowds harder than the dirtiest of bass drops.
His music filled with aggression and the rawest energy, fans knew this word-slurring spitter had something special. A blessing in disguise, it would be the unease of living in Brexit Britain that really fulled Slowthai’s rise to the forefront of UK music. Thai’s hotly anticipated 2019 debut album ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ mixed the personal with the political in a record that elevated him from grime up and comer to the new face of youth rebellion.
Charging only a £5 per ticket for this tour ensured virtually anyone could attend given they were fast enough to buy. This man of the people approach certainly isn’t lining Slowthai’s pockets, meaning the merch table is where Thai hopes to make a little change on tour. T-shirts with slogans like ‘I love EU like a crackhead loves crack’ and the notorious ‘Fuck Boris’ firmly drive home Thai’s feelings on our current political climate.
A stance that no-doubt virtually all ticket holders at Newcastle’s Uni’s underground student union venue subscribe. However, this show wasn’t about mulling over how shit things are, it was about forgetting the bullshit and letting go for a night. Slowthai provided the soundtrack for a group release of pressure through the medium of chaos.
Thai’s debut translated perfectly live, a mix of rap-a-long hooks and raw made for moshing aggression. The set was stuttered with performances of Thai’s growing list of star-studded US link-ups, including the rage-filled “Psycho” with Denzel Curry and the crowd-pleasing cameo on Tyler, The Creator album track “WHAT’S GOOD”.
Thin LED light streams separated Slowthai and his wacky rabbit-headed mascot Woioi from the rapturous crowd. God knows what Woioi is all about, but he did a good job of jumping in the mosh and making fans feel involved in the performance. With the night coming to an end, Thai made a speech that inspired more positivity than any robotic politician could ever hope to achieve.
“See these mirrors behind me? Those are there to show you what is great about Britain. You’re what’s fucking great about Britain! You lot!” Thai passionately preached, half out of breath with just one song to go. “Remember, when you’re at one of my shows you’re never alone. You’ve got me, you’ve always got me. Now show me your fucking energy for this last one, get in a circle and get moving!” The intro of “Doorman” played and the exhausted crowd let loose one last time.
It was wild, it was chaotic, it was anarchy in the UK the Slowthai way.
Photos: Victoria Wai Photography
Words: Johnathan Ramsay