29th March | SWX
Photos: Naomi Williams
It’s 8.45PM and slowthai appears promptly onstage adorned in a luminous yellow jumper and loose black jeans. Surprisingly punctual for a punk-esque rap artist but perhaps a signifier of the career-hungry attitudes that come with the millennial generation and those after them. He was grateful to be at SWX with a sold-out show and he did everything he could to show that.
The crowd stood to attention when the violin riff of ‘Drug Dealer’ rose up through the system. Two minutes into the show and bodies were pulsating, reflecting in the mirrored backdrop as it vibrated with the heavy bass. 90% of the attendees were around eighteen years old and were looking up adoringly at the rapper, many exclaiming “I love you!” in-between tracks, whilst the few older onlookers lined the back of the room. He replied every time “I love you too.”
“Make a mosh pit,” he demanded in-between tracks, and through the mirrored backdrop you could see a plethora of young skinny white guys ripping their shirts off and getting ready to do exactly as he asked. This was a theme throughout the show, a strange dichotomy of the rapper showing his love and appreciation for the crowd, whilst at other times pushing them to do as he asked. It felt like he was testing them, seeing how far he could push. He may as well have said, “Do you really love me? Well if so, do this…” It was reminiscent of an insecure partner, or perhaps just someone that was new to positive attention and was still trying to figure out what he could do with it.
Much in the same way, after the first few tracks he breathlessly asked the crowd to repeat after him, “oh oh oh, yeah yeah yeah,” and they enthusiastically did so. His cries became more and more elaborate until he eventually had the mosh pit of young revellers literally yodelling to their hearts’ content when the intro to ‘Rags to Riches’ began. By this point, slowthai had taken his shirt off to a brief high-pitched scream from some of the crowd and all that was left on his top half was an inflatable crown which he’d placed neatly on his bleached blonde head.
“Mandem, make some noise for the ladies!” A sea of phones appeared as he began to perform his 2018 hit, ‘Ladies’. As the intro played out he said, “Bristol was first place to sell out on this tour. I appreciate you guys more than you’ll ever fucking know – now let’s make a mosh pit”.
As the show progressed, the rapper wasn’t short of tricks to interact with the crowd. From Gerald the inflatable goat, which he passed to them on the promise they’d give it back at the end, to introducing his actual human friends “Squidgy Black” and “Duck Man” who proceeded to crowd surf much in the same way that the inflatable goat did. This progressed right up until the last song, where the game-like instructions continued.
“Last one but I’m going to take you to the future, close your eyes, put your fist in the air and turn around.” A classic grime beat, with strings and heavy bass, erupted. slowthai saw out the show dancing with his friends onstage whilst the crowd moshed and swirled around the sold-out venue. He left promptly, with no encore and none demanded from the crowd… a generational thing, we concluded.
See slowthai perform ‘Ladies’ for COLORS here: