Comin' straight from the rugged swamps of L.A.
Sony completely botched Earl's attempt to drop a surprise album, so I figured I'd at least try to surprise myself a bit. I'm watching the much-hyped video for Grief for the first time now, it feels OK since the album is out now. This is... wow... Doris was already pretty melancholy and "real", with a sort of brutal but articulate directness. This is like... way beyond that. This is some sort of Lynchian tragedy, a tragedy of reality itself, where causality and... Uh, this probably isn't worth explaining, nor is the uncanny sense I had while watching the video of "this could make a great video game" (probably thinking of .flow) and "didn't Earl have a line like 'I don't like shit cause I don't go outside' on some older song?" (turns out here I was thinking of Lil Wayne saying "I don't write shit cause I ain't got time" on "A Milli"). Memory is strange.
I bought Doris for cheap on CD from our local closing Target and I had a good time diving back into that aesthetic. Although it was only two years ago, I feel like I've grown a nostalgic feeling towards the album way quicker than temporally possible. I think it feels so... emotionally whole. Like, the production and style and mode of the album changes quite a bit, but Earl is so cohesive of a "character", it really feels like him in every track. I'm not sure if I can explain the significance of this very well. It seems very focalized around a specific attitude, a specific lifestyle, a specific set of problems. And you can joke about those problems, talk around them, explain them head-on... and by the end of the album, I think you feel really "settled in" to this sort of lifestyle, this person. It creates a well defined emotional place: not just a singular emotional memory, but a whole spectrum of interrelated emotions. I think that's what makes it so nostalgic for me, even now.
So is it unreasonable to expect this from the new album? Yeah, probably.
I dunno, probably not a lot I can say about this atm.
We'll just listen to it and see how it goes.
Earl Sweatshirt - I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside
Haha this corny sorta organ... this sorta campy saccharine feeling is something OF is so good at. This is pretty great flow already ahh, "Beat the fucking beat up like it stole from me", nice. I think this melody is from another Earl song? Am I crazy? "And I gotta jot it quick cause I don't focus so well", the way he lets off at the end of that line is just tragic. And now we shift into something sort of jazzy for the outro, Grief was like this too. Cool. Really cool. S
Geez this is intense. "Screaming fuck 5-0 till my line goes flat" damn. I love this production too, so raw and rugged, with that twanging country guitar. Talking about the fanbase, lol. The lyrical tone is somewhere between Kendrick and MC Ride's latest efforts, in a good way. I love how "underwater" the beat got there. Talking to an ex-girlfriend, completely straightforward and brutal. "What the fuck you offering here?", damn... Ohh I love the vocal effect around 2:50, a sorta Quasimoto voice thing. And again we shift into something crazy different for the outro... it still really has that OF sorta sound, like that one synth is on everything OF, I love it. Again, a sort of nostalgia permeates from it. S+
Oooh nice transition. I like how his voice is getting a bit more aggressive and such now. Damn and wow when he doubles his voice like this. Jesus his understanding of alliteration and consonance is ridiculous, how does he do it so effortlessly? References to his "exile" too, nothing is ever off limits for him. "When I run, don't chase me", geeeeeez. I think every line of this song was "perfect", in that no one could ever think to improve it. *
This was the single, self produced by Earl. It's SOOO DARK, it really reminds me of .flow lol. Like, moving slowly through pitch-black rusted out environments. Addiction, Xanax, panic, obligation, self-destruction... ahhhhh, like... If someone said "Hey, his next album is gonna be EVEN MORE depressing than Doris", I woulda... Idk, nothing I can do I guess. "Fishy niggas stick to eating off of hooks" is the sort of hypercleverness that Earl excels at: it's a god tier line of complexity and meaning, but it's delivered so effortlessly and with so little indulgence - the exact opposite of what I hate about Childish Gambino. But yeah this is a really solid song. Good lead single. Seems very indicative so far. *
5. Off Top
Oohhh I like this production so much. The stutters. This is so intense so quickly. "I been like this since the Motorola Razr", what a strange allusion. "I'm only happy when there's static in the air". Intense. I wonder if this was actually "off the top", I could believe it. His flow is so natural-sounding! S+
6. Grown Ups
First feature is this far in, much different than Doris. "Asking for God for favors, guess he isn't home" :( This flow is strange, "If it wasn't hoes, then it probably was a lick". This sort of like... blurting things out flow. They're sorta splattered all over the beat. "Take your plate and clean it, nigga I'm a dog", :(. "I'm the type of nigga that you cop your raw off", this is the sort of understanding that Earl can inspire in his guests, the sort of mastery. S+
7. AM // Radio
Again with these creepy sort of "deep interior" aesthetics. Wiki, idk if I know who that is, I love this flow though, and his vocal reach. He's going back to a golden age sorta idea, like Wyclef or Tip or something lol. And then Earl going in with some insane flow again... I can understand every line, but it's like... I need to actually sit down and read it to get an understanding of the mastery behind the whole verse I think. Weed crumbs on his shirt like chicken crumbs, lol. "Mind in the trash next to where my fucking passion went" damn. "Rally the horsemen, tally the corpses", holy. And then we switch, I guess this is the "Radio" portion? This is pretty smooth, like, a really well done execution of this sort of... idk what to call it... deprivileged vaporwave? A sense of "sad home" permeates through the whole album, like an uncomfortable smell that isn't quite bad. *
"You crazy for this one", haha. "My first apartment was really covered with roaches". Okay I just can't speak at all for this crazy verse, he's just going in on top of in, constantly making it even realer. "And lately I don't like shit I been inside on the daily", yo this line was from a Mac Miller song he featured on! *
Wow his flow on this verse has been crazy and it's only getting nuttier. "Rap shit got the best of me, I threw the rest off the balcony", damn. "It's cold in the deep end", daaamn. Na'kel has a pretty crazy flow, am i just out of the loop or are all these guests pretty obscure? It works out really well. "Hot sauce in my noodles, you taught me that", what a painful image. Oh man, talking about his dead dad, such an interesting contrast with Earl's dad, super interesting. The piano here is pretty godlike, the way they fill out the bass end of it. This end feels... super ruminating. Like extremely focused regret. *
"Mama shoulda told you there'd be days like this, this just tails from the crypt", feels like a density of reference for reasons for unknown. The contrast between the intense and dark content with the sorta jokingly sinister flow is sick. And Earl going like way tf in, dropping OF references and such, feels like for the first time on the album? "Bitches feel some type of way for me", "Give a fuck about the move all these losing niggas making now", wow. Good stuff. *
Solid stuff... like, dark matter, maybe
Doris felt like a full spectrum of Earl's thoughts and feelings at the time of recording, following him down paths mental and physical as he battled with the issues at the forefront of his mind at the time. This album does too! Except now... the feeling is of watching a depressed hikikomori, who, having abandoned everything outside of a darkened living room, mutters to himself in the dim light of drugs and the TV screen. ;______;
It feels like he's crawling from this place in several directions. He's describing avenues of escapism, but also finding the dead ends behind them, and doubling back to alternatives. He's describing the things that no longer matter with both longing and disinterest. There's investigations into causality, into origin, both with and without the optimism that maybe something can be found. Underlying everything is a sense of futility and failure... way more than TPAB's excellent, but cinematic, arc of revelation, Earl actually captures the feverish loopiness of the thought process of someone depressed. Whether or not that's something you'll enjoy is another question.
Something that I think you're more sure to enjoy is the rapping, oh my God, the rapping. Earl's flows are simply a gift, in the best sense of it, by which DFW defined good writing. He raps very naturally, effortlessly, and creates an expectation that you, too, could expend no effort in listening to it. And yeah, it's great to be hypnotically carried along by his verses, feeling a sense of the meaning, a sense of understanding, but under no pressure to dissect everything. But then, of course, you can dissect everything, and no matter how much work you put in - to breaking down the science behind just how nicely it flows, or to constructing the meaning of the content - Earl will always reward you with deeper connection and even more enjoyment. That's cause, really, it isn't natural or effortless to rap like this... he's actually putting in tons of work to construct something with this mastery of flow and depth of meaning. It's that he doesn't foreground his efforts that makes him... I dunno, I don't think I can explain this right now, but I think this somehow really ties into the emotional place of the whole album. Another mystery: on "Wool", where he links up with OF regular Vince Staples, suddenly there's this shift to what I'd call the "classic" OF emotional-aesthetic... does this suggest that he's now gone back outside, or does it suggest that all of the OF "original era" actually came a place of intense reclusive depression?
Or have I missed the point entirely? I dunno, but I'm really looking forward to pouring over the lyrics to find out. I think his verses work best when you can both hear them and read them as a solid paragraph of text, they have a sort of literary cohesiveness where I want to read them like prose.
At any rate, 2015 heats up further! I'm really really tempted to write some bizarre fiction about all the prominent artists releasing albums this year having some sort of "showdown". This is the sort of stupid idea that I cherish because dumb ideas are the first step towards good ideas.