Music Radar: UGLY Album Review

Slowthai blows expectations out of the water on his new album, UGLY.

Fair use: Pitchfork

Slowthai blows expectations out of the water on his new album, UGLY.

Before this review, I had not taken the time to listen to a full album by British rapper Slowthai (stylized slowthai). I’ve heard him before on song features like on Gorillaz’s “Momentary Bliss” or on Flume’s “High Beams”. Although 2023 feels like it just started, I am very confident that slowthai’s newest album UGLY is going to end up as my favorite album of the year.

“Yum” is the opening track and what a way to introduce the album. The lyrics are a hedonist’s dream talking about women, parties, and substances and how he struggles with the addictions caused by those things. He indulges in his addictions but seems to understand the toll these things take on him because at the end of the track he chants “Excuse me while I self destruct”. Another notable song is the third cut, “Sooner”. A more uptempo acoustic indie track that initially sounds happy, but has a melancholic tinge that makes it almost sadder in a way that you have to hear to understand.

The song “Never Again” is the emotional climax of this album. A jazz rap beat bustles under slowthai as he tells the story of meeting his ex, getting closure, and then the tragic death of the ex a while later. The song is extremely powerful to the point that it actually made me cry. This song is beyond words for me.

UGLY is not the full name of the album, but rather an acronym. The full title, U Gotta Love Yourself is a message that permeates through almost every track. The song “F— It Puppet” is a heated argument between slowthai and an inner voice that constantly puts him down and makes him do things that he knows are wrong. However, Slowthai eventually wins against his demon which abruptly transitions to the next song, “HAPPY”. This song is about prioritizing personal happiness above all else.

Other than the lyrics, the production on this album is stellar. “Yum” has heavy industrial percussion and trippy vocal effects phasing in and out across the track. Rap beats aren’t the only instrumentation that show up on this record, a good majority of the songs actually go more in the direction of rock. Slowthai still raps over the top, but guitars and drums replace the typical 808’s and trap hi-hats.

Overall, this album is amazing. It’s emotionally raw and dives deeply into slowthai’s psyche, including his dealings with depression and addiction, but gives us a light at the end of the tunnel. There are some songs like “Falling” where his vocals give a little to be desired, but to be fair he is a rapper and not a singer. I don’t know what I was expecting when I put the first song on but my expectations were blown away. 9/10.