By Trevor Jones
Former Odd Future prodigy, Earl Sweatshirt, returns from a 3+ year hiatus with his 3rd studio album, Some Rap Songs.
Thebe Kgositsile, artistically known as Earl Sweatshirt, has a fascinating story. He started rapping in the 8th grade and posted tracks on MySpace under the name of Sly Tendencies. He was eventually discovered by Tyler, the Creator, at the mere age of 15. Consequently, Earl was added to the West Coast hip-hop collective, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (usually reduced to just Odd Future). In 2009, Tyler and his edgy, oddball a group of friends were underground. However, Odd Future would go on to be, in my opinion, the most influential group of the 2010s, and albums like Flower Boy (Tyler), Blonde (Frank Ocean), and Hive Mind (Syd/Matt Martian’s band, The Internet) support that claim. When OF started to blow up in 2011, Earl’s mother sent him to a Samoan school for at-risk boys; OF’s controversial lyrics and the overall delinquent-esque vibe must’ve disgruntled her. He returned to Los Angeles in 2012, and eventually put out his first album, Doris (2013). This project featured far more emotional and personal lyrics than anything else he’d released before. In 2015, his second album, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside delved even deeper into Earl’s troubled psyche as his bars were saturated with lines about loss, depression, and addiction (“Inside”, “Huey”). Also, the production itself was gritty, angry, and dark (“Grief”, “Off Top”).
After the release of these two impeccable projects, Earl essentially disappeared. It seemed that his mental state was beginning to take a toll on his productivity as an artist. Although on New Year’s Day 2018, Earl tweeted that new music was coming, but a few weeks later, his father (also prominent South-African poet), Keorapetse Kgositsile, passed away. He canceled an entire European tour because of anxiety/depression, and fans became concerned and disappointed. Flash forward to this past November – a cryptic video with some lo-fi music is posted to Earl’s Instagram, and the rollout for Album #3 begins.
Following the release of singles “Nowhere2go” and “The Mint”, Earl finally delivered exactly what everyone wanted: Some Rap Songs (that’s the actual title of the album). Clocking in at just 25 minutes, SRS wastes no time. The production may be the most surprising aspect of this project because unlike Doris and IDLSIDGO, it strictly features loops. In many ways, SRS is very similar to the legendary 2004 project, Madvillainy.
Despite Earl showing a completely new side of his producing arsenal, the highlight of SRS is his rapping. The lyrics are among the best I’ve ever heard; like his late father, Earl is a master poet. His bars sometimes times don’t even rhyme, but they flow regardless (it’s hard to describe in just words). With each track ranging from 1 to 2 minutes, there are no hooks. Instead, he just spits. I’ve heard many peers and reviews claim that this is Earl’s most depressing collection of work, but I disagree. IDLSIDGO revealed a seemingly inescapable hole that Earl was trapped in, while SRS evoked a sense of hope and solace. Here are some excellent lines:
From “Red Water”:
Yeah, I know I’m a king
Stork on my shoulder, I was sinkin’
I ain’t know that I could leave
I only get better with time
That’s what my mom say to dodge Satan
Say to kill him this time, oy vey
Of course, there are still parts of this project that discuss Earl’s recurring issues with depression. It’s important to note that every song, except for “Riot!” and “Peanut”, was made prior to his father’s passing. Earl had been planning to use this album as a way to rekindle his damaged relationship with his father, who left him at age 6. They were going to meet up in South Africa, and Earl mentioned in an interview that he would play the album for him, which included “Playing Possum”an interlude-like track that featured a poem written by Keorapetse himself. Although, he passed just weeks before Earl made it out there.
Flushin’ through the pain, depression, this is not a phase, ayy
Picking out his grave, couldn’t help but feel out of place
Try and catch some rays
Death, it has the sour taste (Sour taste)
Bless my pops, we sent him off and not an hour late
Still in shock and now my heart out somewhere on the range
Earl is one of the best, if not the best (sorry Kendrick), in the game right now and I respect him so much because he makes music for no one but himself. His music is an outlet for what he feels, and these days, that is an unfortunately rare occurrence. If you haven’t already, I highly encourage you all to go through his entire discography before checking out SRS, so you can hear his incredible evolution as an artist. My only problem with this project is that it’s short run time left me wanting more, especially after a 3-year wait, but that’s the cost for pure artistry.