“Smoke and Make Fire”: Slowthai and A$AP Rocky Dream Up Post-Lockdown Plans
The last time we caught up with Slowthai, he was in an introspective mood, taking us through his life story via his abundant body art. It was a far cry from the brash, prankish rapper that spewed out from a flamethrower with his 2018 debut Nothing Great About Britain, or the anarchic showman who nearly torpedoed his career at the NME Awards a year later. On his sophomore album Tyron (after his birth name Tyron Kaymone Frampton), we get a little bit of both, with the 14 tracks bifurcated into two modes. The first half, its tracks written in all caps, features songs like “CANCELLED” and “VEX,” the former a forceful rebuke of cancel culture, and the latter a middle finger to social media bullshit. On the album’s second half, where song titles like “i tried” and “focus” appear in lower case, Slowthai is at his most contemplative, wondering how he came so close to losing it all. Last week, on the eve of his album’s release, a very excitable Slowthai connected with A$AP Rocky, who appears with him on the track “MAZZA,” to discuss their psychic bond, surviving on Mars, and the best rappers alive.
A$AP ROCKY: My boy, Thai. I’m happy to be here. I’m excited about tomorrow, bro.
SLOWTHAI: I’m going crazy.
ROCKY: Bro, we’re celebrating out here. We celebrated last night when the video [“CANCELLED” featuring Skepta] dropped.
SLOWTHAI: It was lit, wasn’t it?
ROCKY: We went crazy. Everybody.
SLOWTHAI: Where are you?
ROCKY: We in Atlanta right now, recording.
SLOWTHAI: Is Yachty there?
ROCKY: I’m with Metro [Boomin].
SLOWTHAI: Ah, Metro needs to send beats.
ROCKY: Matter of fact, we were looking at the video right now. You had American Psycho and Candyman in there. What else were the creepy inspirations?
SLOWTHAI: A Budweiser commercial. Then the rest of it’s just in our heads man. I’m basically killing all the haters.
ROCKY: You know what people don’t know and what I forgot? You recorded that song in my hotel room.
SLOWTHAI: I was tripping off shrooms, man. I think I fell asleep on the sofa.
ROCKY: That was in 2020, in my hotel room.
SLOWTHAI: That was cozy, bruv. That place was nice, fam.
ROCKY: That was a legendary night. Shout out Skeppy, man. What’s messed up is this whole corona shit, man. The brothers can’t really be with the brothers but we still strong. We still out here. We still mobbin’. This is a really anticipated U.K. project. Bro, you the poster boy right now, the golden child. Everything about what you do is so versatile. Once they think they got you figured out, you just hit them over the head with some shit. That’s naturally how you give it up. You can switch it up on motherfuckers all the time.
SLOWTHAI: We’re just getting warmed up. This is the beginning.
JULIANA UKIOMOGBE: Do you remember where you guys first met?
ROCKY: I met him by looking at his work. When I saw his work, I was an instant fan. What I love about him and what I see parallel with us is we don’t fuck with a lot of people, so who we do fuck with is mutual, and his family, his friends was all my family, my friends. So it happened naturally. By the time we all linked up, it felt regular. I can’t even explain it. It was just mad natural and organic. But I knew about Thai through the field. He was in the field holding it down, directing his own videos. He was doing shows in New York and I would pull up and be in the crowd. Sometimes I would spectate. I was just a fan of his shit, and with him being such a solid dude, it made it easy for us to click. People are not really genuine like that, you know?
SLOWTHAI: When I linked with you, I was high. I was so lean. I was just monging out. You said, “Yo man, I heard your album.” I was like, what the fuck? How’d you hear that shit? That was in L.A. Then from that, just linking up, man. That’s it. I think that’s the thing. Everyone thinks it’s some fairy tale, but it’s just natural.
ROCKY: What they be saying? Yo, these motherfuckers met back in motherfuckin’ 1999? [Laughs]
SLOWTHAI: They was in hospitals on the other side of the world and they connected telepathically.
UKIOMOGBE: What do you love about making songs together?
ROCKY: If I’m going to be real with you, it’s so easy to make songs with Thai because he takes suggestions, and either he’ll take heed to it, or if he strongly feels like he doesn’t want to change it, he’s going to do what he do. Working with him is really fun because that’s my brother. We just be coolin,’ honestly. It’s not working. He’s like-minded and he has his own swag, he got his own creative vision, and he has his own style. He don’t be biting off nobody. He’s not trying to ride nobody’s wave, none of that. He’s a pure artist.
SLOWTHAI: Yes, man. In 2021, I’m coming for the world. I’m coming to Harlem.
ROCKY: Let them know, Thai.
SLOWTHAI: As soon as I can fly, I’m there. It’s game over. Where is them tunes, man? Tyler [The Creator]’s longing me out, you know?
ROCKY: Wait, hold up. He ain’t send that verse in, man? Because I remember when he did IGOR, he was like, “Yo, I got to get Slowthai on this.”
SLOWTHAI: He sent me a beatbox and I was like, “Let’s make something.” And this motherfucker beatboxed into the verse. [Laughs] He was trying to get kinky with me, blood. I’m like, yo, this ain’t Run DMC, you know? Like what do you think this is?
ROCKY: He’s trying to give you some Doug E. Fresh shit real quick, bro. When you see him, be like, “Stop playing with me, man.”
UKIOMOGBE: Do you have any studio essentials?
ROCKY: Weed and water.
UKIOMOGBE: No snacks?
ROCKY: It varies. I definitely got some fruits, peanuts, rice cakes, yogurt, and tea. All types of healthy shit like that. It just helps.
UKIOMOGBE: What’s it like recording music in quarantine?
ROCKY: It’s trash. Recording is the same, but collaborating is trash. Earlier today, me and Thai were talking about how he wanted to get out and I want to get over there. I just can’t wait to get back to the U.K. I really want to record with the brothers.
SLOWTHAI: I just want to get out of this lockdown and do some crazy shit. Link up with the boys. Smoke and make some fire. That’s the way it is.
ROCKY: With the video, I got to call Skeppy, man. Salute. I tip my hat. Y’all went stupid.
SLOWTHAI: Skepps is the GOAT though, man. He understands everything. People need to pay him more respect.
ROCKY: It’s crazy how y’all are breaking boundaries right now, bro.
SLOWTHAI: Would you go to Mars? If it’s a one-way ticket, would you go?
ROCKY: Probably not. I don’t know who the fuck is over there.
SLOWTHAI: But you’d be the first motherfucker out there.
ROCKY: How the fuck am I going to survive? I don’t even know how to harvest shit. Do they have an H2O supply up there?
SLOWTHAI: They found water up there.
ROCKY: Bro, what if they ain’t got no Wi-Fi or weed on Mars? What if them fuckin’ astronauts tell you that it’s against NASA’s policy to travel with contraband and marijuana to the moon or to Mars?
SLOWTHAI: I’mma walk up there with my zoot. Boom! I’m going to Mars.
ROCKY: You about to go up there with some weed seeds and start planting shit.
SLOWTHAI: We got to grow crops and colonize. We’re good for the next 20 years. Everyone’s getting high. That would be the first live show of Mars, fucking shit up. I’m on that David Bowie shit.
ROCKY: You on your Ziggy Stardust shit.
UKIOMOGBE: What artists are you listening to right now?
ROCKY: I’m listening to Slowthai and Bob Marley.
UKIOMOGBE: What are you watching?
ROCKY: I’m watching cartoons. Betty Boop. And that’s it because I ain’t telling the rest. Everybody about to start watching my shit.
SLOWTHAI: Can’t have everyone on the same bandwagon.
ROCKY: He don’t even want to tell you what he watching. [Laughs]
SLOWTHAI: Some fucked up shit, man.
ROCKY: I think he’s watching Gaspar Noé or some shit.
UKIOMOGBE: Who are your top five favorite rappers?
ROCKY: Andre 3000, Lil Wayne, Kendrick. I think Earl Sweatshirt deserves to be in the top five, bro.
SLOWTHAI: Yeah. I think Earl and [MF] DOOM.
ROCKY: Fuck. I ain’t say DOOM, bro.
SLOWTHAI: Yeah. DOOM, Earl, Andre, Jay.
ROCKY: Em, too. Wait, disclaimer. Old Em, you know what I’m saying?
SLOWTHAI: Nah, not no “Rap God” or none of that. His wordplay is crazy back in the day. After that, he got gimmicky. Nah, but Big Pun, man.
ROCKY: But you just named all the five. Yo, Juliana, we can’t do this question. It’s not fair.
UKIOMOGBE: You can do top ten if you want.
ROCKY: That still ain’t fair.
UKIOMOGBE: How about favorite current or new rappers?
ROCKY: I ain’t even gonna lie, no biased shit. You see it coming. Obviously, Slowthai. I really like this kid Zelooperz. I listen to Skepta heavy. I was a big King Von fan. Obviously, we listen to Pop Smoke heavy.
UKIOMOGBE: No women?
ROCKY: Yeah. Tierra Whack. I’m not gon lie, she fire as fuck. Rico Nasty is so hard.
SLOWTHAI: You know when they have the artist festivals and they drive you back to the ting, yeah? All right, listen to this. [Screen freezes]
ROCKY: Damn, that Wi-Fi shot.
SLOWTHAI: Hello? Am I back? This is some bullshit, man.
ROCKY: Yo, we missed the whole story. [Laughs]
SLOWTHAI: They shut my set off. I went to the sound guy and he was like, “It wasn’t me, it was the police.” So I went back and as I’m getting on my bus, Tierra Whack’s manager comes and he’s like, “Oh, she’s got a family emergency.” I ain’t going to disagree with a family emergency. But at the end of the day, she got the bus. I like Tierra, but that moment pissed me off.
ROCKY: Tierra Whack jacked your bus.
SLOWTHAI: She jacked my bus, man. And it was cold. It was in Germany or something.
ROCKY: Nah, you got a good heart. It was a family emergency. But Thai, who are your top five girl MCs of right now?
SLOWTHAI: Cardi’s always gone crazy. Cardi is just bad, innit. Tierra Whack. I got a tune with Rico so I’m going to be biased and say Rico.
ROCKY: You fuck with Flo Milli? I like her.
SLOWTHAI: She’s got a song with $NOT. She dropped a song the other day and the video was just her playing different characters. I thought that was hard.
ROCKY: You fuck with Lady Leshurr?
SLOWTHAI: Lady, yeah, I linked her one time. She’s real, man.
ROCKY: That girl can spit, bro. Alright, so Juliana, my top five chicks, Imma go with Slowthai on this one. We gonnna go Flo Milli, we gonna go with Rico Nasty. I ain’t gonna front, Gangsta Boo, La Chat, Lady Bee from Memphis. Legends, that’s all Imma say.
UKIOMOGBE: What’s the first thing you want to do once quarantine is lifted?
ROCKY: Go to the U.K.
SLOWTHAI: And then we go to Barbados.
ROCKY: We got to go to Barbados. I’m going back, though.
SLOWTHAI: I’m ready, bro. Go out there, get some paradise, get some fish. Chop it up.
Rocky: Yo, the food is so crazy, bro. I just want to say this, though, for real. It’s an honor to call you a friend, but also it’s more of an honor to even work with you. You one of the realest. I got nothing but love for you. You my brother. You family. Congratulations, bro. Tomorrow is a fucking major day and you been keeping your foot on motherfucker’s necks. You been bodying every fucking video you doing. Like, we here, man. Fuckin’ love you, boy.