With rave smileys speckled on his face, Slowthai triumphantly holds a cricket bat in his spider-tattooed hand for the NME photoshoot, who resembles Freddie Flintoff after a weekend at Creamfields or someone ready to win the acid house Ashes.
Face speckled with rave smileys, Slowthai is triumphantly holding a cricket bat aloft in his spider-tattooed hand for NME's photoshoot, resembling Freddie Flintoff after a weekend at Creamfields, or someone poised to win the acid-house Ashes.
As the sun blazes down on the cricket ground in his beloved Northampton hometown, he has even more reason than usual to sport his joyously infectious cartoonish grin that's permanently etched on his face. Indeed, the smiley could be his spirit animal: when he collaborated with Gorillaz on âMomentary Bliss' last year, he somehow managed to look even more animated than 2-D and co.
He makes a beeline for seat 47 â his lucky number. The Northampton County Cricket Ground is currently empty, but in September it will be teeming with over 12,500 raucous fans as he hosts his first festival, Happyland, where the policy is fittingly: âNo smile, no entry.â Curated and headlined by Ty â everybody calls him Ty â the one-day event is practically in his backyard: he can see his mum's house that he was living in until recently and that hosts his basement studio dubbed âHell' from the ground, as well as the property he's transforming into a studio (âI'm building Heaven now!â) and the Victorian-style abode he moved into with his fiancÃ©, to whom he proposed last year.Credit: Joseph Bishop for NME
âThere's room for the whole family so everyone can come there at Christmas,â he says. âI wanted the kind of house that's in Home Alone,â he adds, before joking: âWith traps!â
Ty is a meticulous planner (âIt's manifestation in a way â if you keep thinking it, you'll find a way of making it happen,â he says) and Happyland has been an ambition for a while. âI've always wanted to bring other artists you wouldn't expect to come to Northampton here, and give kids like myself the opportunity to see something they wouldn't have previously,â he beams, adding that he hopes it will become an annual event touring end-of-the-line places that are usually ignored by the music industry. âI want a day where everyone can be free of their stresses and expectations and feel happy and safe.â
The rapper feels like an outsider: his incendiary 2019 debut album âNothing Great About Britain' held a mirror up to the country that disenfranchised him, while last year's stellar follow-up âTYRON' â which received five stars from NME â explored the person behind the persona. The 26-year-old has therefore created a day he views as a haven for other outcasts. âI want the weirdest kids to be in one setting and feel free to be as weird as you like â we're here to emphasise that and bring it out. I think everybody on the line-up's pretty weird â including me!â he proclaims.Slowthai on the cover of NME
It's an eclectic genre-spanning line-up of friends that proves that although he felt Britain made him feel like he didn't belong, perversely he fits in everywhere: punks IDLES are there, who once anointed Ty âthe most important new voice in Britainâ (he says: âI hope they still feel that way â they're just the bros, innit; as soon as I met them, I felt like we'd known each other since we were kidsâ), bedroom-popper Beabadoobee, Leicester heroes Easy Life, rapper Shygirl, nu-soulster Greentea Peng and Coventry rhyme-slinger Pa Salieu.
âIt's all artists that are doing their thing and they don't compromise for anything â just like me,â Ty explains of his choices. âThey're not trying to fit someone else's regime or criteria. They're just trying to be themselves and that's what we're championing at Happyland.â
Thankfully, the cricket season will have ended by then, so the pitch can get fucked-up, as Ty is famous for his unruly, high-energy unpredictable performances that see him strippi ...