Earl Sweatshirt (Thebe Kgositsile), a member of Los Angeles' Odd Future collective alongside
Frank Ocean and Tyler The Creator, debuted with
Earl (2010), recorded when he was barely 16, produced by Tyler The Creator and drenched in lewd and goth.
After a brief exile in Samoa,
Doris (2013) better demonstrated his originality and skills as a rapper.
A number of influential producers showed up to provide the underpinning for his
acrobatic linguistic games:
Frank Ocean (Sunday),
Tyler the Creator (Whoa),
Alchemist (Uncle Al),
This time he mostly steered away from the gothic burlesque of his first mixtape,
although the best song,
the Christian Rich-produced Centurion (with a sample from Can's Soup), is the closest to that mood. But at the other
end there is a simple introverted confession such as Chum.
Alas, the tracks that feature his Odd Future pals
(Vince Staples, Domo Genesis, Mac Miller) are the weakest and could have
The 30-minute I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside (Tan Cressida, 2015)
was much more cohesive and essential, graduating him to become one of
the most powerful emo-rappers of his generation, despite the
minimal beats and lo-fi production. The tracks
compose an unbroken
introverted and sorrowful stream of consciousness, a slow descent into
a personal hell,
that crowned Earl as
the philosopher of Odd Future where Tyler the Creator was the clown.
Instrumental diversions are surgical strikes on the soul: the
county-fair organ of Huey,
the distorted psychedelic guitar and metallic percussion of Mantra,
the limping industrial beat and fractured backup rap Off Top,
the somber piano vignette Intermission.
The void of Grief emanates a gloomy sense of terminal alienation, while
the anemic beat and piano figure of DNA emanates a sense of slow decay.
There's a peak of noir atmosphere when a
sinister swamp beat meets a castrated carillon in Faucet.
Even more impressive is the ten-minute single Solace (2015),
a psychoanalytical cinematic free-style montage of words and sounds.
Some Rap Songs (2018), consisting of 15 microscopic tracks,
was musically more ambitious
with virtuoso performances over glitchy beats and
warped instrumentals, notably
Nowhere2go (produced by Darryl Johnson and Ade Hakim),
and Azucar (the sound of a disintegrating mind).
The music and the rapper sculpt the emotional wastelands of Shattered Dreams and The Bends.
Ontheway sounds like the hip-hop version of a psychedelic blues.
By comparison, the slightly more lively The Mint is beach reggae.
All in all the rapper and producer has invented a style that
reflects the turmoil and disorientation of a devastated psyche.
The music becomes so personal that
Peanut deconstructs the trumpet sounds of his uncle
Playing Possum mixes the voices of his parents over music
that sounds like radio static.
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