First Listen #15: 3 Projects from Earl Sweatshirt

Ah, Earl Sweatshirt. What a KING. I haven’t listened to him much, since Odd Future stopped being a thing, but he was always one of my favorites – I think that was just standard for any Odd Future fan. It’s been really amazing to see him as he enters his late 20s (which is SOOOO weird to say, btw.). I haven’t gotten a chance to see the conversation he had with his mom, but I loved that even being a thing. The change in his relationship (or at least, how he sees his father) after he passed. The way he talks about blackness so openly and honestly. It’s all so so good. I was originally going to do someone else’s album for a First Listen, but I started scrolling through my old Tumblr posts a few hours ago and saw when my blog was essentially all Odd Future photos, and I figured now was a great time to actually listen to the Earl projects I’ve been putting off. So this First Listen is a little different than the others. We got multiple projects to get through, a new layout to test, and all of that before I fall asleep 🙂

Photo Credit: https://djbooth.net/features/2017-09-20-earl-sweatshirt-voice-overcoming-yourself

2015: I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt

(via Genius)

Since I was revisiting the projects in order of release, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt (2015) is first. It’s actually a really interesting project, and I think the second part of the name is super important, which is why I included it despite my irritation at it being so long lol. For me, this project is Earl’s separation from the fame and life that he existed in during his Odd Future prime. The album begins with “Huey,” which sounds very similar to the songs from Doris (2013). You could copy and paste it right into the Doris tracklist and it would fight right in. From there, we dig deeper and deeper into the sound that fills in the background space of I Don’t Like Shit. While Doris is darker in sound than Earl’s previous Odd Future releases, there’s something more existential about the dark sound on this. And that sound continues through the rest of the project; it’s an almost heavy, overwhelming, and suffocating sound, and Earl carries that heaviness into the remainder of the tracklist, as he talks through his struggles with drugs, alcohol, and fame.

And I don’t know who house to call home lately

Earl Sweatshirt, “Faucet”

This project is about Earl, not Odd Future. And he prefaces it perfectly by including that second part of the title. The “and now, a formal introduction” at the end of the first track moves us into Earl’s headspace as we see him separated from the antics of OF. The collective and its members take up very little of the space on the project, with Tyler being mentioned by name – or nickname – in a single track, and only a couple of OF affiliated folks coming in for a verse or two. I loved Left Brain’s production on “Off Top,” Vince and Earl are always a winning combo and do their thing on “Wool”;  and I love how differently structured the verses are on “Grown Ups.” I like how Earl and Da$h occupy the same space on the verses, instead of having a verse to themselves. They kind of weave in and out of the track, like you’re being circled by sharks. It’s an interesting project. You can feel the weight of Earl stepping into his 20s and into a search to find himself.  Things were starting to change in his life, and you can feel that in this project. 

Overall Project Rating

2018: Some Rap Songs

(via Genius)

I remember listening to a little bit of Some Rap Songs (2018) around the time it was released. I didn’t like it much, and I didn’t end up listening to a lot of it, but this second time around, I find it pretty enjoyable. Not from a “Imma be listening to this everyday” standpoint, but from a “musically, there’s a lot of cool stuff happening with this” standpoint. The project opens up a lot different than I Don’t Like Shit. Earl has established that he’s on is own wave now, and he holds no punches as we jump right into the slightly distorted sounds on this project.

I redefined myself…first I had to find it…

Earl sweatshirt, “nowhere2go”

I LOVE LOVE LOVE how raw it sounds. It has the rawness of someone just starting in the game, but the execution of someone who has been doing this stuff for a long time. And if I Don’t Like Shit is the transition from one phase to the next, the rawness of Some Rap Songs lends itself to this acting as a sort of beginning of that next phase. He has a line in “Nowhere2go” where he says “I redefined myself / First I had to find it,”  and I think that’s the perfect synopsis of what these two projects are.  A lot of the subject matter is the same across both, but there’s a little bit more introspection on this project. I also LOVE hearing Earl’s relationship with his parents develop from where it was when he was younger. Instead of his father and mother being obstacles, they have become points of wisdom for Earl has he begins to piece together the lessons, techniques, and stories that he learned from them. And I think that’s such a beautiful thing. There’s also a bending and stretching of time on this project with the slowing down and distortion of vocals that is a little jarring, but I’m REALLY into it.

Overall Project Rating

2018: FEET OF CLAY

(via Genius)

I think I’ll talk about my thoughts on FEET OF CLAY (2019) by talking about what I’m leaving this experience as a whole with.

I think it’s interesting to watch an artist grow, and the good folks over at Odd Future have been extremely interesting to watch as they wade through adulthood, while I’m also wading through adulthood. I remember being in high school and using their music to release my inner angst. Odd Future was the group I looked to when I needed to escape. They provided a world where nothing mattered except enjoying doing whatever you wanted to do. Their music was the fun, rebellious teenageness that I so deeply wanted for myself. I yearned to be just as carefree. 16/17 year old me would have never though that I’d hear Tyler talking about being in love or Earl talking about his depression and grieving over the loss of his family members. It’s one of those clear moments where time has passed, and it’s taken out of its abstract form and put into something tangible or sonic.

Come get to know me at my innermost

earl sweatshirt, “OD”

Through my little excursion through Earl’s last 3 projects, Earl grew up. Cue the “duh’s” LOL, but it’s true. Rapping isn’t just for funsies anymore; rapping and creating helps Earl, on these three projects, push himself through time, diminish the space between himself and his parents, and be honest about how life has affected him in early adulthood. It’s heavy stuff, and these aren’t easy projects to listen to. I couldn’t throw this on and wash the dishes or water my plants. These are projects that require you to listen intently. Not only because the are sonically all over the place (and I mean that in a good way; if you’ve heard these projects you know what I’m talking about) but also because Earl speaks openly about the demons that have latched onto him and the ways he’s been trying to cope with them. And with such scant production on these three projects, you can’t help but hear him fully. He’s speaking the story of someone trying to keep themselves afloat through all the craziness…just like the rest of us. In that way, even though Earl’s lyricism is essentially untouchable and pushes him to unreachable levels, these projects are relatable because they’re human. And that’s something that I’ve been looking for more and more, as I also try to keep myself afloat in my early 20s. These are the times where it’s easy to find yourself coming nose to nose with some really intense and ongoing emotions. As Earl shows us, it’s not an easy job. I don’t think these projects have entered into my daily rotation, but I appreciate them for what they are. And I’m excited to hear more from Earl (hopefully) soon!

Overall Project Rating

Featured Image Credit: https://djbooth.net/features/2017-02-27-earl-sweatshirt-new-album


(listen to Earl’s projects on spotify by clicking the images below)

here’s something else you might like:

Take #5: Tyler the Creator, Odd Future, and a Move Towards Black Visibility

I remember my first time watching Goldlink’s video for “U Say,” featuring Jay Prince and Tyler the Creator. The video, set to the jazzy, afrobeat instrumental and smooth vocals from all three artists, is a beautiful, afrocentric creation as Goldlink, Jay Prince, and Tyler glide clumsily through a party. It’s really a beautiful video. Full … Continue reading Take #5: Tyler the Creator, Odd Future, and a Move Towards Black Visibility

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