Earl Sweatshirt – Doris (Album) [Review] #OFWGKTA
“Yo, I’m a hot and bothered astronaut crashin’ while
Jackin’ off to bufferin’ vids of Asher Roth eatin’ apple sauce” – EARL
Los Angeles, CA – That was Earl Sweatshirt when he was 15 years old and christened the future of hip-hop because of his complex rhyme scheme and melodic flow. His monotonous voice didn’t bother a lot of people because he was able to string together so many great rhymes to make up for it. The first time I heard Earl was actually on Tyler’s album Bastard, on a track called “Assmilk” (yes, I know the title may throw you off, but if you know Odd Future, it’s not a shock). I couldn’t believe that this kid was so young (still is) and he was rapping the way he was. It was like he was already 5 years in the game. ‘FREE EARL’ became a movement because out of random, he just disappeared and no one knew where he went. He became a mysterious figure with only one (independent) album and some features on other Odd Future projects to back up his greatness that had been proclaimed by bloggers and hip-hop personnel all over. After he’d been found by some nosey bloggers about a year or so ago, everyone was just pressing for new music because he’s now 19 and people had just wanted to hear something after his hiatus (understandable).
The problem is that, no one took into consideration that he was doing music, went away, and then came back to do music, so there was a lot of chatter as to even if he was going to continue making music now that Odd Future had been so popular given the fact that he wasn’t even around to see the hype build. Tyler put out a couple of albums, MellowHype put out an album, and Frank Ocean put out a Grammy-winning album. There’s nothing short of talent on this roster, but the focus now is on Earl – the main event in which essentially everyone wanted to hear, and when it was announced that he was releasing an album [Doris], there was a major sense of relief (he put out one before Jay Electronica – amazing), but at the same time there was anxiety because no one would know exactly which Earl they’d be getting.
Earl came out and stated that if you liked him when he was 15 and are expecting that same Earl, you won’t like this album. That’s a good thing, because maturity is a step in hip-hop that many seem to miss. You always have to grow, and that was evident on Tyler’s album Wolf. It was definitely going to be interesting to hear just what type of sound Earl would bring to this one, and hopefully it would be worth the wait.
Pre served as the prelude to the album – just a sample of maybe what’s to come for the album, but there was nothing of over-the-top excitement to make me rub my hands together and say “oooouh this is about to be crazy.” A simple re-introduction as to who Earl is, alongside SK La’Flare (to whom I had no idea who he was until I found out he’s Frank Ocean’s cousin). Short and to the point is what it was and as it led into Burgundy, that’s where the story begins.
“Why you so depressed and sad all the time like a little bitch?
What’s the problem man? Niggas want to hear you rap
Don’t nobody care about how you feel
We want raps, nigga”
The main topic of frustration for Earl that will be visited throughout the album is the fact that so many people just want to hear Earl rap, not caring about what he’s going through. So, I find that it’s fitting that Earl had Vince Staples personify the everyday internet user or fan that’s eager and over-anxious to hear something new from Earl. Keeping in mind that Earl is 19 and is still getting adjusted too his stardom, you could tell from watching a lot of interviews that he was still in a shell not ready to break out. It’s overwhelming for a kid, but since that time he’s been more open and relaxed as if he’s progressed in his adjustment in his position of fame. The first album always sets the tone of what your career path may look like, so it’s the pressure that Earl talks about on the song that gives you a perspective that it’s not that easy for him.
“My grandma’s passin’
But I’m too busy tryin’ to get this fuckin’ album crackin’ too see her
So I apologize in advance if anything should happen
And my priorities fucked up, I know it, I’m afraid I’m gonna blow it
And all them expectations raising because daddy was a poet, right (write)?”
It’s nuts that he has The Neptunes produce this song – my only knock against it is that it’s so short (you know sometimes you just want the beat to last longer although the point has been made). The metaphors and wordplay are there, and I wouldn’t have thought that Earl would have lost his edge (although his sickly recorded verse on Frank O’s Super Rich Kids didn’t help his cause). This is a good start, so I hope it would get better from here.
The first time I heard 20 Wave Caps, it was on a released video of some Odd Future skateboarders a few months back and I completely lost my shit because of the beat alone, and when you add the fire that Domo Genesis brought along with it? The excitement could not be contained. Domo has been slaying his way through verses all year and even going back to his mixtape with The Alchemist, No Idols, he has got a lot better from when he first began (listen to his verse on Tyler’s track Rusty).
“I know these niggas is finding my progression so uncommon
The pressure I’m still applying until I hear the angels crying”
What this track was simply 2 MCs spitting hard lyrics on a dope beat (shout out to Samiyam). Domo outshined Earl, and it wouldn’t be the first time he’s done that.
Sunday puts Earl and Frank Ocean on the same track for the 2nd year in a row (Super Rich Kids being the previous collaboration) and what I like about this song is that for each verse, they focus on a particular subject that’s bothering them and they speak on it vividly and indiscreetly. Frank Ocean has obviously been involved in some controversy given the news of his sexual orientation and constant back and forth confrontations with Chris Brown going back to 2012 on Twitter and actual physical altercations, but at the same time, where there has been down times, the success would hopefully be able to supersede them. Earl revealed his frustrations battling the struggles of juggling a relationship with his girlfriend and his music, while also feeling angry inside for being sent away by his mother (although it did good for him as a person). It’s always weed that seems to be the common denominator when it comes down to cause & effect on the outcomes of an individual, and that’s exactly how it’s played out on this track. I liked it because it all came together on a common thought although Earl & Frank both had different outlooks pertaining to it. I’m glad that Frank rapped, because he definitely can when he wants to (listen to his verse on Oldies), and he did it justice.
Hive was the 3rd single that came out and was one that was highly anticipated to come out after it was previewed while performing earlier in the year. Earl’s verses were strong: after making a declaration to grow up, but not after stunting, to Gil-Scott Heron, he addresses critics who would have thought that he’d only be a one-trick pony (they said the same for pretty much all of Odd Future), and has forcibly changed their opinions to believing that he can actually rhyme. The lyrics hit hard, but you can’t really tell because his voice is monotone. You really just have to decipher the sound for itself, but at the same time it sounds like natural sarcasm the whole way through. He’s really the Anti-Tyler in delivery. 2nd verse gives you a glimpse of what L.A is like through the recession ridden city, and the fact that even the media doesn’t care about the state of the people
“Breaking news: death’s less important when the Lakers lose
It’s lead in that baby food, heads try to make it through
Fish-netted legs for them eyes that she cater to
Ride dirty as the fucking sky that you praying to”
Being in my 20s, and listening to rappers that are around my age, it paints a different picture in my ears and eyes as just to what the environment of their surroundings is like. Rappers are put on a platform because they express and tell the stories of not only their surroundings, but also the stories of the people who can’t tell it themselves. Earl also flexes his muscles as he throws his hat in the ring of just who’s the best rapper. Young with confidence is what’s needed in the game, and it’s good to hear. This is the Earl Sweatshirt I can mess with in the long run.
I wasn’t a Vince Staples fan from when I first heard him on earlier Odd Future tracks, and I’m still not, but I can’t deny the fact that he did do his thing on this track with the amount of lines that he strung together. His verse was really old school; gang affiliated and motivated – a very West Coast vibe. You often forget that OF is based in California, because they don’t sound like they’re from California.
“Quit with all that tough talk, bruh, we know you niggas ain’t about shit
Come around, we gun ‘em down, bodies piled, Auschwitz
Bulletproof outfits, weapons concealed
I’m ready to kill, so test it, all my weapons is real”
Casey Veggies usually has weak features (and overall rhymes, but for some reason he’s not that terrible to me), but this hook was grimy so I will commend him for adding to the gangster attitude of this track; definitely one of my favourites already.
Chum was the first single for Earl’s album, and it’s definitely the darkest of the songs on the album when it comes to where earl is at personally on this track. Being fatherless can (and often is) damaging to a boy’s life. I’m fortunate to know who my dad is, but I’ve never lived with him, and I usually went months without seeing or talking to him, so growing up (and even still now) we were never close, but for a good amount of time, I had my grandparents and uncles. Also, when you’re that one kid who doesn’t know exactly which group to fit into, it serves as an identity crisis at times (something I can also relate to), but good thing Tyler was there to help him out.
“Searching for a big brother, Tyler was that
And plus he liked how I rap, the blunted mice in the trap
Too Black for the White kids and too White for the Blacks
From honor roll to cracking locks up off them bicycle racks”
What he also talks about is just how he feels about the pressures of the music business because he was discovered in Samoa when he didn’t want to be, and then everyone kept forcing their hand as to when he was going to release music – I mean, it’s a lot for a teenager to handle, and with that affecting a relationship with his mother, you’d be annoyed too. As a fan, yes I’m grateful for new music, but as people, there are boundaries with artists that you shouldn’t cross just to benefit from someone’s personal expense. The people can afford to be patient and let things happen as they happen. This is a deep track, and I had this on repeat for a while because it’s gloomy, but still enjoyable.
When EarlWolf (Earl & Tyler) get on a track, it never fails to be dope, and that is no exaggeration (Assmilk, Orange Juice, Couch and Pigions are all fire). Sasquatch can very well be added to the list of collaborations because everything clicked well between the two. Tyler’s coming off his 2nd studio album and has reaped the benefits of that, and Earl is on his way to what deems to be a very successful launch to his career after foregoing his mother’s wishes to take a different path in life away from music. Odd Future in general has been flourishing for the past year and then some, so they both just rap about that. They’re going to be here for a while, so you’d better get used to it. It’s not back and forth rhymes, but both of their verses are dope behind the beat.
I could have done without Vince Staples’ verse with that beat for the beginning of Centurion, but when the beat flips for Earl, it’s crazy. The track (keeping consistent with the overall sound of the album) has a dark feel to it, but it’s almost to the point where it’s reminiscent of Black Hoodie Rap that New York was famous for. The difference is that Earl’s not trying to sound like he’s a seed of the Boom Bap era like East coast counterpart Joey Bada$$.
“Kept the sticky in the Stussy pouch
Ski mask, bloody ‘Preme hoodie tossing doobies out
The window of the hoopty, night black as Paul
Mooney at the movies but the moon was out”
523 was a quick instrumental that was produced entirely by Earl (who would’ve thought he can produce too) and Uncle Al was a quick freestyle that was actually dope, but I wish it was longer. It reminded me of how Jay-Z had two short tracks on Magna Carta Holy Grail (Versus & Beach Is Better) that had the listener (being me) wanting more, but I think Earl got right down to the point on this one.
Guild was also a track that was very anticipated mainly because of Mac Miller. It’s insane that I’m actually not bothered by his music anymore. His most recent album Watching Movies With The Sound Off, is very well done and I think it’s because he showed off a more emotional side than his other albums & mixtapes, that maturity lured me into liking him more as an artist. Shit happens, I guess. The track feels like it’s moving in slow motion because both Earl’s and Mac’s voices are pitched down, but it’s enough that you can still catch their bars in the process. The reason for that is because they’re simulating being high off of multiple drugs and just what their thought process is during that time.
I love Molasses and the reason is not only because RZA is featured & co-produces on the track, but because the beat is so reminiscent of older Wu-Tang that I’m expecting Raekwon to lay bars on the track out of nowhere. I could literally listen to this beat all day and ignore the fact that rhymes are being said over it. Also, it has probably one of the greatest hooks of all time.
“I’ll fuck the freckles off your face, bitch!”
Sorry, but that is just greatness, no matter how vulgar it comes off as. When OF first came out, everyone was comparing them to Wu Tang (everyone compares rap groups with 6+ members to Wu Tang) and now that Earl has rapped over an official RZA beat, what comparisons will arise from here? Hopefully zero, because there’s no point.
Whoa was the 2nd single from the album, and it really brought it back to the old Earl that the older (and probably younger at the time) fans will appreciate. Although Tyler doesn’t have an actual verse, he contributes by at least providing the beat and hook while Earl goes into his mode for 2 verses. It’s hype, but it’s not mosh-pit-rocker-type hype that they usually go for. Hoarse on the other hand combined the band BadBadNotGood (also mentioned on Tyler’s Lone track) and Earl for a more melodic, almost soft-punk-rock type of feel to it. As the album is winding down, Earl focuses on himself as he goes into the thought process of just what exactly he wants for himself from here on out as far as being a rapper is concerned. He’s good, he knows he’s good, and he’s letting other rappers know that as well (pretty much what Kendrick just did to everyone on Control).
“Pro-abortion endorsing his own importance
Or leaving opponents floating with paper and dirty porcelain”
He also reflects on his coming up and just how and why he changed to fit in with his friends and before he got in with Odd Future. I’m a sober guy (no smoking or drinking), so I understand what it’s like to get left behind by your friends because you don’t do what they do. I’m content on being who I am, and everyone knows that, but when you’re young and impressionable like Earl was, I can understand why he chose to smoke/drink to make not only himself feel better, but his friends around him.
“Shit, the former soloist who flow was sick
The token sober kid stressed so the role was switched
Now four Lokos down the hole and a loaded spliff
Look who’s as useless as a broken wrist when tryna open shit”
I like this song, because it takes it to a different feel and much like Chum, it gets personal, but not on the level where it’s borderline depressing (again, the vocals would make you think that anyways).
The last song, Knight, gives us another Domo Genesis and Earl Sweatshirt collaboration. Much like how Molasses was a RZA beat and felt Wu inspired, this track actually sampled a Wu Tang song (New Wu) and I will admit, yet again, that I spazzed the first time I heard it. Taking myself out of fan mode for a second, Domo yet again shines. Both of their verses deal with having to grow up without fathers (this is a common topic with Tyler as well if you’ve been following his music), and the success that they’ve had without them is what they’ve embraced and will continue to do so even if they give their mothers grief (I can definitely relate to that).
“And my ambition burn so hot, it’s like I’m bleeding lava
Haters be pleading me to stop but I don’t even bother
Though my approach is seeming awkward, I could see it proper
See success and I just see the fact that I don’t need a father” – Domo
“I’d like to send a shout to the fathers that didn’t raise us
To every ho who hated, now unable to say much
To critics doing dirty with comments and nigga paid for an apartment
Yesterday off some songs I haven’t yet made up” – Earl
The confidence that’s brewing with the two shows that although they’re in a newer generation of rap, they recognize where it stems from and are primed to carry their own legacy by paying homage to the past (hence them rapping over a Wu Tang sample).
“I’m just a old soul sticking to a newer script
I guess I got to prove this shit, I’m truly too legit to quit” – Domo
“Just me and Domo and lit marijuana to split between two of us
Rocking boxes easy as warming some ramen noodles up
So, searching for a way to state it right
Young, black, and jaded, vision hazy strolling through the night” – Earl
For a comeback, Earl possessed a lot of growth and maturity as not only a rapper, but an artist overall. We got to hear different sides of Earl that we didn’t before, and also he showed off his confidence that he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with for the long run. Behind the flat vocals are complex rhymes and well strung together words that make him a pretty pure lyricist. It takes more than one listen to catch everything (unless you sit on Rap Genius and decipher everything, but even then). I like this album a lot, and will probably grow to love it, because there’s evidence of past and present sounds that Earl still handled effortlessly. The features also kept up with Earl, and although most of the songs were short, I didn’t feel like I was left hanging, because it wrapped up like a good book. This isn’t a bad purchase for new/old fans, and this definitely isn’t a bad start if you’re listening to Earl Sweatshirt for the first time. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review
That’s My Word & It STiXX
Twitter: @earlxsweat | @MR_STiXX
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Tags: Domo Genesis, Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, Hal Williams, Hodgy, Jasper Dolphin, L-Boy, Left Brain, Lucas Vercetti, Matt Martians, MellowHype, Mike G, Odd Future, OFWGKTA, Taco, Tyler The Creator