Slowthai Walks Us Through His Life, One Tattoo at a Time

By
Photography James Emmerman

Published April 20, 2020

When it comes to tattoos, Slowthai lives up to his name. “I don’t want to get them all at once,” says the 25-year-old rapper, born Tyron Kaymone Frampton. “I don’t want to be that guy who’s got a sleeve of Greek gods and shit. That’s just not me.” Instead, the Northampton, England native, whose debut album Nothing Great About Britain was released last year, has spent the past decade gradually transforming his upper body into a visual almanac of where he’s been, what he’s gone through, and where he’s going. Here, he connects the dots on some of his best body art.

1. “Life’s a bitch, but it’s also what you make of it, innit? I’ve always tried seeing it as the beach, with sand and sea. But no matter where you go in paradise, you’re still watched and judged for who you are, so that’s why there’s the eye and shit.”

2. “I’ve always wanted to get a big diamond on my pinky ring and until I get one, I’ll have this one.”

3. “This one’s for luck when I get married, because I want to get married, believe it or not.”

4. “This one is the postal code from Northampton, where I’m from.”

5. “This one means that I’m the head of an organization. Which one, I’ll never say.”

6. “That’s me as a little demon-chicken-bone-snake motherfucker. A girl from South Africa drew it.”

 

7. “This is just a question to myself. I wish I knew why everything is the way it is. I wish I knew why I’m the way I am. I wish I knew why the world is the way it is. I just wish I knew.”

8. “This is the Mona Lisa, but she looks like George Washington. It’s like my family always said: ‘Smile at the world and the world will smile back at you.’ I never agreed with that so I put it on my belly. Every time I look at her, she looks more and more like George than Mona.”

9. “The book says ‘Life Lessons, 1994,’ which is the year I was born. I thought I was a know-it-all my whole life so that’s what the knife is for. I don’t need to open a book to learn. I’m just learning as I go. Fuck it.”

10. “I was addicted to Xanax for a time and lost my mind. I didn’t ever feel like I’d be normal again. I went away to Portugal, and I couldn’t sleep because I was so used to just passing out and shit, and Airplane! was the first thing that made me laugh and helped me fall asleep again.”

11. “It’s the thing I feel I’ve said the most in my life. My mum never wanted me to put any tattoos on my body, so this was a way of saying sorry without actually having to say it.”

12. “It’s about blood brothers—some who are here, some who are not here anymore. Friendship is the thing I hold closest to my heart. That’s why it’s on my left side.”

13. “This design is from a guy called Fuck TG, who made the cover for my EP I Wish I Knew. I’ve always related to the Mad Hatter. Like him, I sometimes feel like I speak in riddles and people don’t understand what I’m saying.”

14. “I got this done in Australia when I was touring there. This guy interviewed me, and he was a tattoo artist. He said, “Do you want to get a tattoo?” And I was like, “Fuck it. It’s a memory, even though I’ll probably forget it in a year.” But then he never got to finish it. He was meant to come meet me, but he got stoned and fell asleep with his girl and then I had to leave. That pissed me off.”

15. “Before I went by Slowthai, this is the first EP I made. But I won’t ever say what it’s called. It’s personal to me. It was a message to somebody who’s no longer in my life, who will never be in my life again.”