by DJ Hari, DJ Lavendar, DJ Cheeto, & Cameron Cardwell
Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All, or simply, Odd Future hit the independent hip hop scene over a decade ago with a characteristically adolescent wave of impact, spawning a cult following in American teenagers, and stepping stones in the careers of Syd, Frank Ocean, and Tyler, the Creator. Earl Sweatshirt, born Thebe Kgositsile, stuck out as a young prodigy of the group with a drone-like, MF DOOM-inspired flow. Shortly after the release of his first mixtape, Earl, in 2010, Kgositsile was sent to a Samoan boarding school. This resulted in a lack of new music, spawning a “Free Earl” campaign among Odd Future fans.
Kgositsile soon returned with verses on Odd Future’s The OF Tapes Vol. 2 in 2012, and his debut album, 2013’s Doris was met with critical acclaim, displaying his lyrical talent and a sonic palate similar to previous Odd Future releases. 2015’s I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside solidified Kgogsitsile as a force to be reckoned with separate from his Odd Future cohorts. Thematically, it was darker and drearier than any previous release by him or any of his contemporaries. It alienated some of his fans, but it delved into his own struggles with depression in both intimate introspection and detachment from the listener.
Three years later, Kgositsile continues to progress in his artistry on Some Rap Songs, collaborating with young New Yorkers spearheading a new movement in avant-garde jazz and hip-hop such as the genre-bending Standing on the Corner, and the experimental hip-hop group Slums.
Here’s what some of our staff had to say about the new project.
The central mode through which Earl Sweatshirt pieces together his latest album Some Rap Songs can be found in the very first words of the project in the song “Shattered Dreams,” “imprecise words”. The very idea in the underselling of this project in the title reflects a shift in both the artistic and emotional perspective of Earl. In his previous projects Doris, and I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside, depression and anxiety were the backdrops for which Earl portrayed himself. His sound, while melancholic, did not truly embody the pain, and isolation he rapped about.
This isn’t to say that this newest project is bogged down, in fact, it is almost more expressive, and centralized than any of his previous work. In forgoing the catchier hooks, and more relatable sounds and themes of his former projects Earl situates himself to tell his story on his grounds, and through his lens. Earl doesn’t show pieces of his depression, he shows all of it in its most true, and rawest form, which makes this 25-minute project feel not only much longer (in the best way), but also it is far more enthralling. Some Rap Songs is a meditation of Earl’s mindstate from within himself and for himself.
This project is murky, surreal, and cerebral. The vocals are often time muddied or mixed into the background of avant-garde jazz inspired production and off-kilter beats.
As time progresses, so does Earl Sweatshirt’s recognition of being an individual rap artist who has long since strayed away from Odd Future. Starting from the ripe and tender age of sixteen, Earl Sweatshirt has
graduated from the goofy individual part of OF to a much more complex and recognized rap artist who now expresses his personal pain and reflection in the new album, Some Rap Songs. Though the album name and its upcoming definitely undersells the emotionally charged lyrics and talent that Earl has actually brought, Some Rap Songs is nothing short of the lax, yet poetic lyricism that Earl conveys.
Starting off with the song, “Shattered Dreams,” Earl introduces the listener with his own reflections of fame and the feeling of entrapment that he constantly battles with from being famous. Then, in “Red Waters,” Earl continues to express this sense of sadness and entrapment while recognizing his passion for music, intertwined with remembrance of his late father who passed earlier this year. “Cold Summers” furthermore encapsulates his constant use of substances that he did to cope with his pain from the passing of his father and close friend Mac Miller, along with the life of fame that he attempts to grasp which is also expressed in “Nowhere2go.”
Throughout Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt uses jazz and R&B influences in this new album. They smoothly transition from each song and use warped sound samples from other artists like Linda Clifford, The Endeavors, and Soul Superiors, which contributes to the calming retro 70’s feel. Earl uses these songs in a unique way by slowing down the tempos and repeating the choruses in abrupt yet catchy tones in order to provide a dreamy and even funky sound.
Despite Earl’s constant battles with the sorrow and loss that he has expressed in Some Rap Songs, this album has nonetheless proved that he is nothing short of a talented and poetic rap artist. Some Raps Songs has not only credited Earl with even more seriousness as an individual artist, but has further revealed his appreciation and relevance for R&B music while still expressing his original authenticity which originated from OF.
On Earl’s third LP, we hear him diving deeper into abstract hip-hop’s and addressing personal topics while being transparent and forward as ever. Earl’s production is also in top-form featuring hypnotic and experimental beats that provide a surreal backdrop for his emotions. On tracks like “Nowhere2go,” “Eclipse,” “Loosie,” and “Veins,” Earl gets deeply personal about his feelings of loneliness, isolation, and grief with lyrics like, “Say goodbye to my openness, total eclipse of my shine that I’ve grown to miss from holding shit in.” He addresses his relationship with fame and fans repeating, “It’s been a minute since I’ve heard applause” and “Sittin’ on a star thinkin’ how I’m not a star” on Veins. The relationship he has with his mom and late father, an influential South African poet who died January this year, is also addressed. In “Red Water,” Earl tackles the rough relationship he had with his father and everything unsaid. “Playing Possum” is a spacey track where Earl layers recordings of his mother’s speech and father’s poem. This comes together as somewhat of a dialogue between his parents and a tribute to their impact on him. This genuine, emotional and personal album closes with “Riot!”, an instrumental sample of his uncle, who died weeks after his father, ending the album with an ode to his family and roots; A fitting end to a stellar album. Earl Sweatshirt might not live up to the expectations of some friends and fans, but there is no denying the care, emotion, and love that went into making Some Rap Songs a personal and stand out album that reminded me to call my mom more.
DJ Hari hosts Parts Unheard on Wednesdays, 10PM-midnight
DJ Lavender hosts S.L.A.P.S. on Fridays, 10PM-midnight
DJ Cheeto and Cameron Cardwell are new DJs at KZSC.