Slowthai review, Glastonbury festival: Rapper's onstage mayhem doesn't quite match the menace of his music
Slowthai aspires to be our one-man Public Enemy, exposing the social injustices and streetwise realities of a country driven to the dogs by austerity
“Glastonbury, I need some socks!” It’s the sort of cry that usually goes up from the marketplace around 5am on the muddier years, rather than from the West Holts stage mid-Saturday afternoon. But after asserting so firmly that there’s nothing great about Britain – it was even the title of his debut album – Northampton rapper Slowthai is learning the hard way that the UK can do summer pretty hard when it wants.
“Those things are hot!” he says, abandoning his plan to climb into the crowd barriers and returning to a stage that he quickly discovers is a hundred foot hotplate... and he’s barefoot. Swapping his trousers for socks, Slowthai piles into his set of ruined East Coast fuzz rap – full of drug-dealing confessions, odes to ketamine and anti-Boris diatribes – dressed like a scrawnier David Beckham billboard ad and aided by a similarly tats-out wingman. As a visual spectacle, it’s as stripped-down and minimalist as his beats.
Too trap and US-influenced to fit comfortably into grime, Slowthai aspires to be our one-man Public Enemy, exposing the social injustices and streetwise realities of a country driven to the dogs by austerity.
His onstage mayhem doesn’t quite match the menace and anger of his music and message, though. He caterwauls an awful a capella “Wonderwall” between tracks, instigates a “circle of friends” for “Doorman”, evokes the love-in spirit of Glastonbury and even ends up wearing a rainbow propeller hat for “Mayhem”. It becomes tricky to take his politicised schtick too seriously, particularly when his attacks on Theresa May are buried pretty deep in “North Nights”, his drug antics are writ large over much of the rest and he seems to get most angry over the biological processes of intercourse on “Why You Wet”. He even stops “Inglorious” to dedicate it to the loss of someone we’re certain he refers to as “Nanny Bum Bum”. But Glastonbury pours a little Hennessey on the ground for her anyway.
His ramshackle 45 minutes are padded with intentional false starts, but nonetheless the set buzzes with malcontent. “Polaroid” comes on like a minimalist rap remix of Outkast’s “Hey Ya”; “Drug Dealer” is all brutal rap barks about his inescapable place in the underworld over deep dub growls of noise. The closer, “Psycho”, even comes drenched in Hitchcock strings and beats like a kitchen knife through a shower curtain. Seems Slowthai is better heard and not seen.