NME Awards 2020: Slowthai - Hero to Villain in one evening?

Finlay Holden discusses the incidents surrounding Slowthai at the 2020 NME awards

Finlay Holden
28th February 2020
Image: youtube user NM, insta @kathbum
The annual NME awards show is known for being, as they put it, “The music industry’s most raucous night”, but this year it may have gone a bit too far.

Northampton-based rapper Tyron Frampton, who goes by Slowthai, was nominated for 9 awards, and ultimately ended up walking away with two; Best Collaboration for ‘Deal Wiv It’ alongside Mura Masa, and the highly coveted Hero of the Year award, previously granted to the likes of Liam Gallagher, Alex Turner, and even Beyonce.

It was after winning the latter trophy that things started going downhill, with Slowthai making misogynistic comments towards comedian-turned-host Katherine Ryan, such as “she wants me to tend to her flowers,” and “baby girl … if you want to do something, see me later.” This awkward and inappropriate exchange left the crowd justifiably outraged, and some chose to throw their drinks on stage alongside some choice insults. After one man declared the artist in question as a “wasteman”, the seemingly intoxicated musician lobbed his own glass back and tried to jump onto the audience member before being held back.

This whole exchange is extremely embarrassing for Slowthai, who has seen success after success up until this incident, and also for NME who have said very little since the night. Most of all, you might expect Katherine Ryan to be somewhat startled, as she appears uncomfortable on stage and tried to mask this with inappropriate sexual sarcasm that hugely misses the mark, but she has in fact declared her support on Twitter, saying “[Slowthai] didn’t make me uncomfortable… What a sweet boy. I defused it.” 

This is extremely confusing, as Slowthai himself has accepted full responsibility via Twitter: “i want to unreservedly apologise, there is no excuse and I am sorry. i am not a hero”. I would argue that this apology is not enough, but either way he has behaved wildly inappropriately and it is laughable that Katherine argues that he didn’t.

Based on previous award ceremony antics, it is clear that the 25-year old artist thrives on controversy, especially with his Mercury Prize 2019 stunt where he held up a dummy of Boris Johnson’s decapitated head. The album for which he was nominated, Nothing Great About Britain, also deliberately gives an angry voice to those who aren’t happy with the world, and this attitude can be seen during his chaotic live performances. Safe to say, it’s almost inevitable that at some point he would do something to upset the modern political correctness we now hold dear.

In the new age of woke culture, there has been a rise of the infamous ‘cancel culture’, which dismisses someone and their entire body of work should they choose to voice an opinion or perform an action that upsets current society; loud misogynism would be near the top of that list. It is hard to gauge the current reaction to this incident; fans are extremely mixed, and NME has made little comment other than to redistribute the Hero of the Year trophy to Katherine at Slowthai’s request, but some artists in attendance have tweeted their disgust.

While his actions are incondonable, they aren’t massively out of place for this particular ceremony. Some have questioned whether the same reaction would have arisen had it been a Gallagher in his place. I would argue that back in the 90s, no one would even bat an eye, but times have changed and this story needs to be considered with scrutiny in the context of 2020 culture. It will certainly be interesting to see what reactions Slowthai’s next performances and release receive after this.

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