Exclaim!'s Best of 2013: Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums
Published Dec 04, 2013
8. Earl Sweatshirt
Odd Future's Earl Sweatshirt faced incredible expectations on his retail debut Doris, and he did not deliver on them.
This was no error. Rather than an attempt to appease the masses or meet expectations, Doris is the sound of a talented, acclaimed young scribe making sense of success and his youthful delinquency the way most teenagers do: drugs, music and lots of writing. You can see the hundreds of crumpled sheets that went into crafting the complex internal rhymes of songs like "Whoa" or "Hive."
Sweatshirt ignites when driven by his peers, from Vince Staples ("Centurion" and "Hive") to Domo Genesis ("20 Wave Caps" and "Knight"). He has a knack for writing lines that lodge themselves in your cranium with sheer ingenuity. He's rawer than the skinned knee cap on the blacktop. "Chum" compresses 19 years into four minutes, chronicling Sweatshirt's passage "from honor roll to cracking locks up off them bicycle racks."
Shedding the murderous misanthropy and misogyny of his Eminem-inflected debut, Sweatshirt found inspiration in Madvillain's Madvillainy. It's all there: the gauzy, blunted beats, largely created by Sweatshirt himself; the sardonic humour, the wry, dense verbiage. Yet Doris is also its own beast, a slow grower that requires attentive listening to tease out the knotty tangles of Sweatshirt's writing. And it's well worth the time. (Aaron Matthews)