As people are starting to quietly trail out of the room at the end of the Mercury Prize 2019 announcement, a loud voice shouts out from the podium: “Yes, mate! Mercury nominated, mate!”
While all the other shortlisted nominees in attendance have answered journalists’ questions on the red carpet and left, rapper slowthai, unconcerned by etiquette, is making the most of the experience.
Holding a Mercury Prize award aloft, huge grin plastered across his face, he makes sure to get pictures before it’s time to go.
Nominated for the prestigious award for his debut record, the top-10 charting Nothing Great About Britain, he tried to sum up his feelings to Sky News.
“It feels like angels have come down from heaven, kicked me in my chin and sent me up to heaven, and then God said, ‘You’re allowed in here until we make a decision of whether you can stay or not.’
“So now I’m trying to figure out whether I can stay in heaven or not. We’ll find out in September if I’m heaven worthy.”
September is when the overall winner, who will take home a £25,000 prize, is due to be announced.
With odds of 6/1, newcomer slowthai is currently joint-second favourite, alongside three-time nominees Foals and Anna Calvi, with Dave, IDLES and The 1975 the favourites at 4/1.
Mercury judges – who include Stormzy, Jorja Smith and Gaz Coombes – described Nothing Great About Britain, which features guest appearances by Skepta and Jaykae, as an “urgent and profound debut”, a collection of “absorbing, vivid stories of lives lived at the cultural margins, told with tenderness, rage and humour”.
The Mercury Prize is a special award, says the rapper, because “the people who have won before I regard so highly”. He then likens his nomination to “one of those eggs from Russia… there’s only, like, 50 of them in the world…
“Faberge! It’s like that. If you get one of them… oof.”
Slowthai, or Tyron Frampton to his mum, grew up on a council estate in Northampton. He first started rapping at the age of eight.
The album is the story of his life, his experience of growing and having a family who were immigrants.
Music bonds people across divides, he says. That’s why he does it.
He was eating peanut butter and jam on toast when he took the call to say he’d been shortlisted, his name on the list of 12 alongside fellow rappers including Dave and Little Simz, and bands such as The 1975, Foals and IDLES. “I think I was in shock,” he says. “I was excited.”
Later this year, the 24-year-old will support Liam Gallagher on tour. “I’m ready to just get on it,” he says, before flitting off on a tangent to Richard Ashcroft, who will play on the former Oasis frontman’s dates in Ireland.
“We’re going to hit it. I’m going to show all these people who want to hear Bittersweet Symphony who I am,” he laughs. “They’re going to know who I am.”
He speaks about what is great about Britain: “Family, community and all the things they’re trying to squeeze the life out of and push away with gentrification, making it a nice Wetherspoon’s pub that no one wants.”
And what’s not great? “That people are so deluded that they think something is so great through a false history… people are stupid, that’s what’s bad.”
Which brings us on to Brexit, and our new prime minister: “He’s just like a lower-rate version of Donald Trump… Let’s hope he does something great, and not be… I can’t say the words, but you know what I’m saying.”
:: The winner of the Hyundai Mercury Prize will be announced at an awards ceremony at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith on September 19.