REVIEW: Earl Sweatshirt Embraces Gloom and Introspection on ‘Some Rap Songs’

Some Rap Songs sees Odd Future prodigy Earl Sweatshirt at his best. It feels like the culmination of a long journey, one that has seen Earl’s music mature into a rich, jazzy, and genre-bending style of rap that is completely unique.

From Earl’s very first release, the self-titled mixtape EARL in 2010, it was clear that he was head and shoulders above the rest of his Odd Future peers in terms of talent. With absurdly slick bars like:

“I’m a hot and bothered astronaut

Crashing while jacking off

To buffering vids of Asher Roth eatin’ applesauce

I came to Earth to poke Catholics in the ass with saws

And knock blunt ashes into their caskets and laugh it off”

‘EARL’, EARL (2010)

…fans were instantly hooked. With this one release, he went from an unknown 15-year-old to a critically lauded young artist featured on numerous “album of the year” lists. One would expect Earl’s career to explode after this, but instead, the young rapper disappeared, being shipped off to a reform school in Samoa by his disapproving mother.

The next three years saw Odd Future’s “FREE EARL” campaign further building up the hype for Earl’s release. When that day came, Earl immediately dropped a song, ‘Chum’, and subsequently gained tens of thousands of followers all across social media. In 2013, the same year he was released, Earl dropped his debut album Doris to massive commercial and critical success. With this release, Earl had entered the mainstream.

However, things began to turn sour for the wunderkind. Odd Future broke up. Earl’s grandmother died. He ended up harnessing this turmoil in his life and created his second studio album, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside in 2015. This album’s sound was more serious and mature, showing Earl unafraid to express his sadness and anger, with edgier and more serious bars like:

“The wins like lotion, he get it and go rub em in

Critics pretend they get it and bitches just don’t fuck with him

Spend the day drinking and missin’ my grandmother”

‘HUEY’, Some Rap Songs (2018)

Now three years after this, we get Earl’s third studio project, Some Rap Songs. In this release, Earl sounds wiser, more poised, surer of himself and is clearly not afraid to try things completely differently. The album starts with ‘Shattered Dreams’, which helps to establish the themes and sounds that will be heard throughout the project. Earl raps about not being able to find help as he drowns in his own life, all over a slick jazzy beat. Jazz and lo-fi are clearly big influences in the crafting of this project.

The instrumentals are impeccable. The way Earl rhymes on these sample-heavy beats is very reminiscent of MF DOOM’s acclaimed wordsmithery. He sometimes goes off beat when he rhymes, but in the context of the song, it works to make a more interesting sound.

It’s hard to find any low points on this album- it’s a joy to listen to from the first track to the last. The tracks are short, and the whole album can be listened to in less than 30 minutes, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It seems to me that the album is meant to be listened to all the way through as a full experience.

Earl’s anger with his father has been a consistent theme from his first mixtape 8 years ago. With the recent passing of his father, we see Earl in a more reflective and forgiving light. This is a flawless album with a shit ton of replayability. If you haven’t heard it already stop what you’re doing and press play on Some Rap Songs.

“See the ghost of where I was, lonesome as I was.”

Least Favorite Track(s): Loosie

Favorite Track(s): Ontheway!, Cold Summers, The Bends, Azucar, Veins

Final Score: 10/10

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