Published Mar 26, 2015Upon his release from a brief stint at an overseas school for at-risk youth in 2012, Earl Sweatshirt returned to his Odd Future collective and was swiftly launched into fame with his 2013 debut album, Doris. The album's shock raps and lewd content prompted a cult following, but it was one to which Earl never seemed fit to lead, mostly because he didn't seem to want to.
Fast-forward to 2015: Earl Sweatshirt announced the release of his latest album, I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside, just a week before its release. Despite vocalizing his feeling of "a disconnect" with Sony Entertainment's roll-out plan for the new album, the 21-year-old rapper quickly dropped the lead single "Grief" and its accompanying video within 48 hours, and the full release of the ten-track project the following Tuesday (March 23).
Produced entirely by Earl under the name randomblackdude, with the exception of "Off Top" co-produced by Left Brain, the project is coated in hazy synths and emphatic bass, although it's characterized by a muted sound, overall. While the production is sedated, it allows Earl to highlight (and speak to) themes of anxiety, fame, relationships and loss, raw content far from the fantasy life he's boasted about in the past. Earl reveals the social anxiety he feels with an overly active fan base on "Mantra," while uncovering the daily drug addiction and repercussions of fame on the Nakel Smith-featuring "DNA."
Earl's assertiveness on "Grief" counteracts some of the deeper undertones of the album, as he goes on to boast confidently, "Like it or not / When it drop, bet he gotta listen," before succumbing again to depression and loneliness. As the only other upbeat voice on the project besides Ratking's Wiki on "AM // Radio" (which seemingly samples Tupac's "Dear Mama"), Vince Staples joins Earl on "Wool"; the yin-yang pairing plays to each other's strengths as the two take jabs at fellow rappers. While the lyrical fight Earl put forth on Doris drew comparisons to Eminem, his assertive delivery throughout I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside embodies the same fighting spirit, but packaged in transparent cellophane that allows a view inside rather than opaque aluminum foil.
In honest and raw fashion, Earl Sweatshirt unmasks both sides of success: one is a daunting experience of fake friends and industry rules, the other one of self-expression and the journey to adulthood. On I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside, Earl forgoes youthful cheap thrills to tell the tale of the kid who'd rather stay inside to hone his craft. (Tan Cressida/Columbia)