Over overwhelmingly heavy and ominous beats that he produces himself, Earl Sweatshirt has become as transparent, yet as complex, as ever while quietly torturing the rap world with his enthralling music.
When you hear the name, “Earl Sweatshirt,” what do you think of? Most immediately gravitate to Odd Future, and while this may be unfair to him, this was when he had the most publicity around his name. Earl was a skinny teenager who made a name for himself being extremely controversial, hanging around with Tyler, the Creator, and mish-mashing words and syllables into complex rhyme schemes. It was the latter that really put him in the spotlight as one of rap’s youngest, yet most skilled technicians with a pen and a mic in his hands.
That being said, a lot has changed since he was 16. He was sent away to Samoa for two years by his mother, who didn’t approve of the lifestyle he was living as a young and famous rapper, and this led to a much matured Earl. Instead of rapping immaturely about eating applesauce and watching Asher Roth videos, he chose to tackle head-on many of the issues that plagued his youth.
While he did decide to shift the subject matter of his raps, this decision never seemed to compromise his work. Rather, his lyrical skills became sharper, his production grew to be more impressive, and his electrifying and darkly introspective bars morphed him into one of rap’s most impressive recluses. While it may have shoved him deeper and deeper into a cave where he will never find mainstream attention or Grammys, it has seemed to only elevate his work to an astonishing level that many may begin to dismiss out of pure ignorance.
Hearing his raps can often sound like like a blur of dismal, mashed up rhymes that are given a sadistic-sounding backdrop of very somber production that he prefers to handle himself. It isn’t happy music, but it isn’t supposed to be. Sometimes, introspection can be dark, and it tends to be with Earl. While many may not enjoy this, they need remember, sometimes beauty can be found in the darkest of places. This is exactly the case on I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside.
Not many people actually enjoy his newer music the first time they listen to it. Even his biggest fans didn’t really relish his latest album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside the first time they heard it. But, after a few listens, his exhaustive genius soon becomes apparent. Whether he is using lucid imagery and intricate metaphors to describe his withdrawal from some of the relationships he had built like he did in Faucet (“Who you callin’ your mans?/ Bet you thought he was solid, when he really just sand/ Washing away with the water”), or he is employing poised five-and-six syllable rhymes that paint him as a very morbid and disgusting villain like on AM // Radio (“Got kicked out the morgue/ Spit cattle manure shit/ Shit, rally the horsemen/ Tally the corpses”), Earl is as skilled with a pen and a notebook as any rapper or poet is in this day and age. It’s amazing to witness the stunning vocabulary he utilizes during this ominous poetic takeover, and even more amazing to consider it’s coming from someone who didn’t even graduate high school.
Where does Earl Sweatshirt go now? Well, while his last album was a very steely and clandestine, yet confident and self-assuring project, his releases since then have pointed to him becoming even more in tune with his emotions. They may seem a tad less brooding, but they still are full of self-analyzation, and now seem even more heartfelt and broken. On a 10-minute track he released a month or so after IDLSIDGO, titled Solace, Earl sounds as sincere as ever as he releases all of his demons and self-anguish onto the track. Over the course of the 10 minutes, he discusses his various troubles with a very subdued and genuine feel, whether he’s talking about his problems with drugs, his lack of eating, or his loss of friends. The moment the track really hits home is with his last words in the song in which he raps, “Time waits for no man, and death waits with cold hands/ I’m the youngest old man that you know/ If ya soul intact, let me know.” He then lets the track run for almost another two minutes, filling it with tranquilly free-flowing production that allows the potency of the last few lines to really settle in. The song in its entirety is a despondent, arresting, and hushed look into the cracked psyche of Earl Sweatshirt.
In the past, Earl usually takes about two years to complete and release a new album. Looking at the calendar now, it’s been longer than that since IDLSIDGO came out, so a new album should be coming out any day now. If his future releases sound anything like the music he’s been releasing of late, it is sure to be something special. While Earl’s music may not be for everyone, it sure is breathtaking for those that choose to experience it. He is the lonely hermit of the rap world, slicing his way underneath mainstream appeal with self-assured and mind-boggling verses, every death-ridden poetic output seemingly more impressive than the last. Earl is slowly clearing the way for all of the underrated and under-appreciated rappers of our generation, one metaphor at a time.