Published Dec 03, 2018Recorded under the umbrella of Odd Future, Earl Sweatshirt's 2010 debut was that year's most divisive rap record. Some people liked it; many more shook their heads quizzically. Earl was 15 at the time, a giggling pyromaniac whose hijinks kept the rest of his 10th grade class on perpetually high alert.
That record left behind an insuperable legacy; Earl will never be able to fully move on. But by cloaking himself in secrecy and withholding the most basic autobiographical details, Earl, now a fiercely private 24-year-old, can at least keep us at a healthy distance.
Toward the end of new album Some Rap Songs, Earl recounts sitting in his modest apartment and fulminating on his lack of stardom. Is it any wonder? There are zero hooks on Some Rap Songs; the beats are so amorphous, sedentary and unusual that they would give even Madlib pause.
Earl can rap — boy, can he ever — stringing syllables together like a young Ras Kass, but he's getting more convoluted with age, so the listener has to spend ever more time combing through goblets of impasto to find something quotable.
Although a very strong record for what it is, Some Rap Songs lacks the emotional power of the two albums that preceded it, particularly Doris, which charted Earl's transition back to civilian life from a Samoan wilderness camp. Today he'd prefer to genuflect at the altar of mystery. Give Earl credit for this much: he can still raise quizzical eyebrows. No matter how much things change, they stay the same. (Tan Cressida/Columbia)