Earl Sweatshirt - 'Some Rap Songs' Album Review
After an artist takes a lengthy break away from music, they gain the attention of the world as everybody begins watching their every move to anticipate what might be on the horizon. With Earl Sweatshirt he made it clear at the start of 2018 that new music was coming, with a comically un-ceremonious tweet stating ‘new chunes 2018, don’t think I wasn’t at work’, as if we hadn’t been waiting for 3 years. But as the year progressed fans slowly stopped worrying about the album and started worrying about him, as his life was struck with tragedy after tragedy after his father, his uncle and one of his closest friends all passed away within the year. The fixation on Earl became less about anticipating his music and more concern for his well being after cancelling all his european tour dates in late July, but despite his overwhelmingly difficult year he still strived to release the promised album and at the end of November he released Some Rap Songs, an album that is beautiful, dark and brilliantly crafted.
Earl Sweatshirt has always been an expert at creating a mood as he showed on his fantastically melancholy I Don’t Like S*** I Don’t Go Outside in 2015 but on Some Rap Songs he takes this to a whole nother plane, executing one of the most abstract and thought-provoking albums I’ve honestly ever heard. It’s difficult to pick out individual tracks from this album when Earl takes such a dedicated effort to creating a mood and tone as the whole album strings together into one all-engrossing sound. It's not a sound that hasn’t been done before when looking at the production work of Madlib or the rapping of underground artist MIKE show, as the swirling, looping samples that Earl incorporates into Some Rap Songs has been a staple of their music since it began. However there is something so distinct about Earl‘s classic nonchalant delivery riding underneath these grimy and hypnotic beats that makes it so effective. Note I used the word ‘underneath’ when talking about Earl‘s rapping, because on the majority of these tracks he sounds like he is being swallowed by the beat before he can get a word in, creating a strange and sinister aura, adding to the intrigue of this album.
And even though it may be difficult to understand him at times, Earl‘s lyricism, flow and rhyming structures are as fantastic as ever, stringing sentences together with ease whilst making use of incredibly intricate rhyme schemes. At points on this album Earl channels his inner MF Doom with his cadence and production and this is most definitely a compliment as I would argue Doom perfected this sound back in 2004 on Madvillainy, a collaboration project with Madlib. Unlike Doom however, Earl is much more introspective and transparent on Some Rap Songs as his words are much more profound and weighty than the unflattering album title would suggest.
The opening track ‘Shattered Dreams’ with its watery and punchy guitar loop is a prime example of this as Earl murmurs the hook “Why aint’ nobody tell me I was bleeding/ Please, nobody pinch me out this dream”, lamenting on his self-destructive nature and secluded lifestyle in a poignant and poetic manner. Lines like this are spread across the short tracklist like on ‘December 24’, perhaps the most ‘conventional’ sounding song on here for lack of a better word, with the line “‘Member when they had my grandmammy on a drip drink/ How much of that gin straight? Could have filled a fish tank”.
Its these lines in combination with the alien and dark instrumentals that make this album so emotionally heavy and that, despite its 24 minute runtime, makes it such an exhausting listen. This all climaxes in the final three tracks that are an absolute punch in the gut to those who have been following Earl this past year, as ‘Playing Possum’ features both his parents discussing love and life through a distorted lens, making for a truly heartbreaking listen. This is a really difficult album to recommend given its jarring and unforgiving sound with no bangers or bops in sight that may turn off new and old Earl listeners alike. However, if you can get past the initial barrier to entry this is without a doubt one of Earl Sweatshirt’s most complete musical projects to date, sticking with an airtight sound all the way through that fizzles between experimental hip-hop and classical jazz as Earl uses his platform to express his pent up grief in a powerful and mesmerising way.
Listen to Some Rap Songs below: