Alternative, UK Rap

EP Review: Slowthai – Runt EP

Runt EP represents yet another fantastic body of work from the incredibly prolific Slowthai. On this project he doesn’t quite abandon, but certainly moves beyond, much of his usual irreverence, focussing instead on the darker sides of his consciousness and existence. The rapper once again teams up with Kwes Darko, a vital ingredient in Slowthai’s winning formula,  who crafts a kaleidoscope of jagged, cutting beats which perfectly complement the anger and frustration that emanates from the latter on this EP.

On ‘Disneyland’, the emphatic opener, the Northampton lyricist is markedly sombre, rapping the lyrics “Man I miss sleeping without weed/forgot the last time I was creasing, drowning in the deep end/where’s all the fun gone? why did the funds stop?” – a remarkably poignant and articulate encapsulation of suburban depression. The beat, even before the lyrics come in, set the vibe of the song; a sparse, chaotic ensemble of snare, heavy kick and synth, the pitch of which oscillates up and down the scale disconcertingly throughout. Halfway through there’s a break in which the heavy 808 kick thunders like the beat of a frightened heart as Slowthai croons “sometimes when I find myself low I look to the skies and pray/ But there’s no god above me that can take my pain” – it’s equal parts agonising and cathartic.

‘Drug Dealer’, the single released several weeks prior to the rest of the project takes on new significance in the context of the other four tracks. The anger and the urgency of lyrics like “your foundations been built on sand/sinking sand, now you’re sinking man” supersedes the humour of the hook, which contains jibes at those rappers who “got one song, it’s called drug dealer”. This theme is continued on the next track “GTFOMF” (get the fuck out my face). The beat here is a traditional rap beat – strong drums, a synth melody and some additional chimes – which allow T to tell a story in a conventional hip-hop way. There’s no hint of machismo in the delivery of the lines “All I’ve ever known was drugs/ Before the drugs seen people on drugs when I didn’t really know what it was/It’s normal to me as sugar in tea, how many sugars you want?”; just a bitterness at the reality of life for so many in working class Britain. Fellow UK rapper Loki (Darren McGarvey), in his recent Orwell prize winning book ‘Poverty Safari’, discusses the effects of this lifestyle at length, Slowthai more or less sums it up in one line later in the verse “I been through the fog, on the wrong side of bed every time I wake up”.

The penultimate song ‘Call My Own’ offers welcome respite from the heaviness of sound and content that comes before. The stripped back beat has a boom bap bounce to it but is much lighter, individual piano notes supported by light snares and hi-hats. The despondent hook – “Tryna take everything that I own/ I never had nothing I could call my own/ Coin in the wishing well I keep on throwing/ I keep on throwing, I keep on…” – is wonderfully incongruent, an instantly repeatable melody spoken with a softness that make it sound like an anthem for a neglected youth. Indeed, the verses speak to that very fact, highlighting Slowthai’s difficulties in caring for and being attentive to the people that he loves whilst trying to make money through music.

The final track ‘Slow Down’ is also centred on T’s financial struggles, but this time he is once again irreverent “Boiler broke on Christmas Day/ Ask Santa why’s my life this way/ Putting heating on my next wish list/ Fuck Santa cos we cold as shit”. It is this ability to confront such important, relevant issues with a measured yet insightful demeanour, knowing when to laugh, when to cry and when to shout that make Slowthai such an exciting artist. This being his second EP in less than 2 years, we’re excited to see what comes next.

Rating 4/5

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