28 November 2018

The Disruptors: Boundary breaking rapper slowthai on art as rebellion

Whether it be stepping over the North/South divide, stripping to his boxers on stage or taking on a nude John and clothed Yoko pose with his girlfriend for the world to see, slowthai is breaking boundaries left, right and centre. 

Unafraid to stand out in the industry, the Northampton-born and raised rapper is every bit the rebel 2018 needs. slowthai is energetic, exciting and excitable: he’s taken it upon himself to care about what his platform means, from writing about the sexism of street culture to proudly stating his postcode, the rising star always has a purpose. As outspoken about his understandable Tory-hatred as he is his love of Northampton FC, slowthai’s drive is refreshing and inspiring, it’s the kind of belief you recognise in an anarchic punk, which in some ways is just what he is, just with a bit of wonky rap and gritty grime thrown in. We meet the game changing rapper to find out what it means to be a disruptor in the state of it all, and where slowthai’s anarchy is leading him next…

Why should art of any form be disobedient?

Artists are here to break the mould, disturb the normality of life. It’s important to create conversation, talking points, changing and challenging peoples view of the world.

all clothing / Nike

What are the rules that you broke in order to get to where you are now in your career, and what advice would you give to anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Every rule that applies… Follow your heart and fail until you get it right. Don’t let fear make you second guess what feels right; as long as it feels right it will be.

How does what is happening in the world now influence your music, and why is it so important to be brutally honest in what you do?

Honesty is the best policy. You should create for yourself so if you’re not being honest with yourself how can you take yourself seriously, you can’t lie to yourself. Why you gonna be fake? Real recognise real.

"Art is about interpretation and what it means to the individual."

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You’ve got a tattoo that says ‘Nothing Great about Britain’ – do you sometimes feel like the country isn’t hearing what you’ve got to say as a young person?

If they don’t hear it now eventually they will. Be it long after I’m dead or tomorrow, I only want to reach the people not the country, the ones who want to hear it… you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

Your work pushes boundaries – musically and visually – how important is the aesthetic to you and what kind of feeling do you want people to have when watching a video?

I don’t have any expectations. Art is about interpretation and what it means to the individual. The aesthetic is the vision in my head, it’s natural, I’ve just got to be myself that’s the most important thing; knowing myself.

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How do you feel your city’s culture has influenced your style and attitude?

I don’t live in a city it’s a town. It’s the place I grew, it’s what I know most, just made me not give a fuck about where you’re from.

Your work is your diary – how does it make you feel sharing those personal parts of yourself with the world?

Who knows who I might help by sharing it, sometimes we need to know we’re not the only ones going through stuff.

Who is the rebel that inspires you the most and why?

My mum. She defied all odds with a smile on her face.

slowthai wears the Nike Tn OG Purple, available from 15th December on nike.com.

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  • photographer Jack Chamberlain
  • stylist Chantal Des Vignes
  • words Kitty Robson
  • make up artist Hannah Wastnidge
  • hair stylist Vimal Chanda
  • manicurist Karen Louise
  • producer Zoe Roberts
  • assistant producer Bridget Vuillermin

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