UK rapper slowthai’s live show is punk af
UK rapper slowthai's debut album Nothing Great About Britain (out now on True Panther/Method) is one of this year's finest debut albums, and he's in the US as we speak, having made his live debut in LA on Wednesday (6/19) followed by a NYC show at Elsewhere Zone One last night (6/21). The album is as much indebted to the sounds of British rap and grime as it is to the attitude of British punk (he references both Dizzee Rascal and Sid Vicious in the lyrics), and sometimes his music can sound punk too, like on "Doorman." But Nothing Great About Britain only sort of prepares you for how punk slowthai's live show is. The sold-out venue was packed to the brim with people who are already huge fans, and slowthai had everyone acting like they were at a hardcore show. It only took him about 25 seconds into his set to jump onto the floor and run out into the crowd, and later on in the set he flung himself onto the crowd with the kind of reckless abandon that you almost only find at a punk show. He started more circle pits than I've seen any punk band start this year, and even when he wasn't encouraging the crowd to go wild, the whole room was an endless mosh pit for most of the night. Mosh pits at rap shows are fairly common at this point, but slowthai's approach feels more genuinely inspired by punk than plenty of bands who have guitars.
That all said, slowthai is just as much a student of classic rap too. He performs with the confidence and ease of someone who's been going to hip hop clubs all their life, and he hypes up the crowd in the way you only see at rap shows. He'd cut the music because only, like, seventy percent of the people were moshing. And the crowd ate it up and the pit got bigger when the beat came back in. He combines the unique thrill of a punk show and the unique thrill of a rap show so expertly, and it's something we could really use more of. I'd like to see some bands who do have guitars try it out, too.
slowthai's show was constant energy, not a person in that packed room seemed like they weren't having the time of their life, and I think it won't be long until slowthai is regularly performing in much larger rooms. But his show wasn't only a success because the energy levels were high. slowthai is a genuinely great rapper, and that came across on every song. His hypeman and his backing tracks never got in the way of slowthai putting his own skill as an MC on display. He's the whole package, and if you get a chance to see him live, you should definitely do that.
slowthai plays another sold-out show at Elsewhere Zone One tonight (6/22), and then he heads back across the Atlantic and has several UK/Europe dates through November.
Also, he ended his set with an unreleased collaboration with Denzel Curry (I think he said it was called "Circle"), with Denzel's verse playing over the PA. It sounded awesome, so stay tuned for that.
Pictures of the show -- including openers Kelvin Krash + Kasien -- are in the gallery above. Some videos below...
photos by José A. Alvarado Jr.