December 29, 2018

Earl Sweatshirt - Some Rap Songs Review

Earl Sweatshirt - Some Rap Songs Review

Earl Sweatshirt - Some Rap Songs Review

Back when Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All was a budding rap collective in the late 2000's, one of Tyler, The Creator's greatest finds was a young kid, still in school, but with an unbelievable knack for stringing words and phrases together. This kid was only 15 when he started to write songs with Tyler, and in 2010, Odd Future released his first mixtape, titled Earl, at just 16 years of age. From the beginnings of these early recordings, it was clear that Earl Sweatshirt was a shining star within the enormous rap group. His wordplay was unmatched, and his talent was just beginning to be mined. Shortly after the release of his depraved, humorous, and often violent mixtape, his mother, UCLA professor Cheryl Harris, sent him to a boarding school for at-risk youth after becoming aware of his drug habits. His return marked the release of his first official studio album with Columbia Records, Doris, a significant work that cemented his name in the hip-hop world at only 19 years old. A couple years later, Earl's followup was released, which was also met with critical acclaim. Now in 2018, his latest album displays the most mature and raw version of Earl Sweatshirt that fans have seen thus far. Some Rap Songs is so artistic and high-brow, casual listeners may not even notice its greatness. Only real fans of the genre will turn their heads and nod in appreciation for what Earl does in this soulful, rhythm-rhyme laced, tightly woven album, one which is cleverly disguised as a lo-fi collage of disjointed beats and verses.

Regarding his father, a South African poet laureate, Earl goes from his past couple of albums ripping him apart for not being around, to full scale grief and depression over his death in SRS. His innermost thoughts are displayed on here, but each track has much of the same subject matter of living life. Earl’s only weakness may be his inability to focus on a single topic in any particular track, as every song in Some Rap Songs contains some of the same deep personal and emotional themes which Earl feels in his heart, but this nakedness of sincerity is also his greatest strength. Each track is brisk and most are only just over a minute in length; this entire album is his shortest by far, making 15 tracks fly by in just over 25 minutes time. It creates an album worth many repeats to unpack all of Earl's artistic touches. There are plenty of tracks that come and go before you have the chance to grasp their brilliance and Earl's glitchy, soul-filled production. Songs such as "Cold Summers" and "The Mint" feature bright melodies and glimmers of hope for Earl's future.

Earl’s drawl in most of his songs gives his verses an air of effortlessness, bordering on laziness. The mere fact that his delivery comes across this way could give insight into his own mental perspective on his life at this time in his career. Earl’s got a lot to say, but he has been, and still is, hurting from the pain of life. This can also be evidenced by the fuzzy, minimalistic beats; all of them sound as if they’re ready to shatter into pieces. Furthermore exhibited by Earl’s opening track, “Shattered Dreams”, his multiple references to his battle with depression, and one of his last tracks, “Playing Possum”, which features a spoken acceptance speech by his mother, and his late father Keorapetse Kgositsile. Earl’s latest album, personally to me, comes across as a cry for help, and his rap songs, while possibly useful as a form of therapy for him, still stand as recordings of his tortured mind and soul. It begs the question why Earl would name one of his final tracks after an animal that is knows for playing dead. One reason would be the passing of his father, almost a year ago in January of 2018. But it also has his mother’s acceptance speech, which sounds as if she’s looking back at a lifetime’s worth of achievements. These two together makes it a touching tribute, but Earl being only 24 this year should have much of his life ahead of him. What is “Playing Possum” saying about himself? It’s a perplexing name that is left up to interpretation, but nevertheless, it becomes clear as to why Earl has been blessed with such a high intellect, coming from a decorated poet and college professor.

Although Some Rap Songs boasts self-reflective, densely layered lyrics, soulful, vinyl scratchin’ beats, and a rawness that is commendable and much needed in the genre, the overall tone and atmosphere Earl creates doesn’t necessarily make for an all-around enjoyable listen. In a few years time, I’m not sure if I will go back to Some Rap Songs for repeated plays the way I have for his raw, ego-fueled self-released mixtape Earl, or the polished production of his “comeback”/debut studio effort, Doris. For the most part, Earl’s jaw-dropping wit and production value gives us a look through the window of this tortured genius, and the quality of his compositions sound messy, yet refined simultaneously. It’s like watching the crumbling of fantastic architecture of an ancient building: there’s a beauty to behold in its destruction, but I still worry for the mental health and well-being of one of my favorite rappers alive today. My only hope is that Earl continues on in this world, to grow, to find some happiness, and to refine his craft even more. If he has the will to continue to do this, despite the harrowing pitfalls that he feels in his life, I believe that his best work has yet to be released.

Some Rap Songs - 7.75/10

Recommended Tracks: Cold Summers, The Mint, Veins