Slowthai has carved out a peculiar lane in the modern music scene. Early in his career, his manic, off-kilter rap delivery made him a household name in the UK grime scene. However, slowthai pulls from Pandora’s box of influences on UGLY, from dance-punk to hardcore to alternative pop. His garage-style rapping is still an essential feature of his music, but instead of the grime of Dizzee Rascal, UGLY is more reminiscent of the surf-rock of Pixies.
This seems to be slowthai’s exact goal with the album: to subvert the audience’s expectations and prove he can’t be pigeonholed. The tracklist begins with nihilistic and disconcerting punk tracks like “Yum” and “Selfish,” but he quickly changes lanes with “Feel Good,” an uplifting and bouncy pop track. With other artists, this kind of genre-jumping might make for a disjointed and confusing listening experience, but slowthai manages to consolidate his many musical sides into a singular flawed yet lovable character.
His songwriting is equally difficult to pin down. Slowthai expresses a hodgepodge of emotions throughout the album, but the narrative loosely hinges on the opening and closing tracks, which he revealed in an interview with Apple Music that he wrote back to back. In “Yum,” the album’s opener, he opens up about his struggles with addiction and inability to address his problems. On first listen, it is an incredibly uncomfortable track that evokes jarring emotions from listeners. However, when he closes with “25% Club,” he concludes that his struggle to feel whole will never be satisfied through his vices or even his loved ones. The delicate guitar instrumental combined with his abrasive yet tangibly genuine singing voice suggests that he has found solace in this reality. UGLY is an album overflowing with vivid emotions, and while it’s captivating enough for a fun first listen, it is also dense enough to become deeply attached to.
Ben Merisotis is a sophomore in the College studying Government. He is the INDY’s Suggests Editor.