Earl Sweatshirt Shares Nowhere, Nobody Short Film

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In November, Thebe Kgositsile released his latest as Earl Sweatshirt, Some Rap Songs, an album that ranks among the best of last year. Today, he’s shared a short film accompaniment called Nowhere, Nobody that’s just as considered and understated as the album itself. It was directed by Naima Ramos-Chapman and Terence … More »

Stoney Willis – “Nu Stogie” (Feat. Earl Sweatshirt)

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Earl Sweatshirt’s modestly-titled album Some Rap Songs dropped earlier this month, and now the LA rapper is back on a new track from Stoney Willis. Titled “Nu Stogie,” the track takes cues from Willis’ dark, hazy, and incredibly unsettling debut album Mirror Monsters, as well as from some of his production for Earl Sweatshirt, Vince … More »

Music Review: Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs

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Earl Sweatshirt

Some Rap Songs

[Tan Cressida/Columbia; 2018]

Rating: 4.5/5

“It ain’t really bout the lyrics or the wordplay / Boy this something from my spirit and my worst days”
– MIKE, “GREEDY”

Somewhere in our photo libraries is a snap unready for the moment of its internment. The image may be blurred, out of focus, or overexposed. Whatever the imprecision is, its presence, born of a rush, calls for memory’s counsel. We fill in what the camera couldn’t possibly know, and we toggle our understanding until at ease with the frame of things. “That’s what happened,” and we cling. “Imprecise words”

For an artist like Earl Sweatshirt, imprecise snapshots of who he was — or wasn’t — have long been taken against his own terms. His absence from the spotlight and his precocious rhymes, anarchically cutthroat but promising of a directed fury to come, brewed intrusive speculation. Even as Earl revealed more of himself with songs like “Chum” and “Solace” or the bare-bones soliloquy I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, his openness only quickened hypotheses about his mental health and requests for more of the “real” Earl. Some of these demands were more insensitive than others, but their plea was mutual: kick us some sad bars so we know you’re feeling it too. Say goodbye to my openness, total eclipse…

Mercifully, Some Rap Songs arrived. Almost every head had a take, usually on either side of the lazy consensus that the album sounds like Madvillainy or of the hip antithesis that it’s inspired by, MIKE’s MAY GOD BLESS YOUR HUSTLE. The hype was real. Earl was praised for finding a way to further the introspection of his previous record and to tap into the wellspring of “abstract” takes on hip-hop and jazz rising out of NYC from the likes of King Carter, Medhane, MIKE, navy blue, Sixpress, and Standing on the Corner. He discovered a new family and a new way of encoding the real, of sealing a “classic.” We givin’ praise and glory to your name, kid…

There’s no telling how long Some Rap Songs will be hyped, but its provisional induction as a classic is striking for how off-color it seems in context. The understatement in the album’s title is only one of many clues that suggest an aversion to swift prophesying. Earl’s verses, largely shorn of the crowded internal rhyme schemes that won him comparisons to DOOM, sound fragmentary and off-the-cuff. They’re still artfully written, but they drift and sink, shuttling between the windfall of community and the free-fall of slipping into habits that have always threatened those ties. I’m a man, I’m just saying that I stayed imperfect…

Earl’s scuffles with depression and substance abuse were never secrets, but they’re now at least more acceptable to discuss openly given the sweeping hunger for artists to reflect the anguish of the present. As ever, the burden disproportionately falls on black artists, whose pain seems more justified to the armchair slouch. Earl’s recourse is not unlike that of such pop auteurs as Blood Orange and his day one Frank Ocean: art that’s personal to the point of mistiness, where diaristic references and idiomatic flips make sense only to those nearest or at least attentive enough. The effect from a distance is alienating and intimate, as if overhearing a private conversation in which the tenor is clear but the details are smudged. Kept the truth in my palm and my chest…

The immediacy of the album’s moods owes much to the raw production, handled mostly by Earl but also with assists from new NYC familia Shamel (Gio) of Standing on the Corner and Sixpress, Detroit plugs Black Noi$e and Denmark Vessey, and Odd Future old-timer Sage Elsesser. Like much of the instrumentation on sLUms projects, the beats sound like soul and jazz vinyl dragged in sludge and chopped to center whatever few bars poke longingly through the mire. They pass quickly, but their strange familiarity conveys what’s needed to both disquiet and soothe. The loop hold up the belt, G’s felt…

Concise and deft as the music is, one would be remiss to pretend the sound is an unexplored blueprint for hip-hop. Not only does it echo the work of his fellow NYC-based artists, but it also shares traits with the humbly reflective music of underground hip-hop artists like Maxo, Pink Siifu, and Vik. Debates about ownership are needless, especially since many of these artists are known collaborators or friends of collaborators, but ignoring the record’s debt to community risks erasure. Earl has always toasted to independent talent, from Lil Ugly Mane in 2012 to more recent artists like BbyMutha and Mach Hommy, and his latest is another tea light for a vibrant grassroots scene. Get some more ribbons for the born winners from the jump…

More than with any musical influence, Earl’s gratitude for others is clearest in his writing. The basement solipsism of I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside has given way to a liberal use of the plural “we,” a belonging that may seem unlikely for the kid who once said on “Chum” that he was “too black for the white kids and too white for the blacks.” That sort of psychological reading is tenuous at best, but it’s hard to leave unremarked how tender Earl is toward women in his lyrics. We don’t need to moralize about the rapper’s past to acknowledge that it’s a sign of maturity when he no longer punches down to muffle his pain. Instead, failed relationships are processed as opportunities for growth, and women are given overdue appreciation. My cushion was a bosom on bad days / There’s not a black woman I can’t thank…

For all its signs of progression, the record is never heavy-handed with its ambition. Its unforced attempt at making sense of the fraught present, at finding shelter without resorting to convenient escape, is a rare and, dare I say, sincere feat. Some Rap Songs refuses a neat, generalizable diagnosis of the state of Earl or of the world, and for that it deserves time in a stirless room of the mind where speculation is kept at bay. In the fullness of remembrance, these fragments and stains might fuse into something like insight, but only if we release them from ambiguity by fitting them into our own experience. There, in the deep-set rearview, solace is tending. We roam tundras…

♫ Listen: Earl Sweatshirt – “Azucar”

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Premature Evaluation: Earl Sweatshirt Some Rap Songs

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Earl-Sweatshirt-Some-Rap-SongsHere’s what I remember: They were moshing to piped-in music. When Odd Future came to SXSW in 2011, their breakout year, they brought a whirlwind of chaos with them everywhere they went: their own stages, other artists’ stages, the corner of 6th and Red River whenever they all stampeded through. It was an exhilarating spectacle. More »

Stream Earl Sweatshirt’s New Album Some Rap Songs

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Earl Sweatshirt - Some Rap SongsAfter three years out of the spotlight, Earl Sweatshirt is following up 2015’s I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside with a new project called Some Rap Songs. The album is out now via Tan Cressida/Columbia and available to stream below. The California cult rapper made his big commercial return at the … More »

The Alchemist – “E Coli” (Feat. Earl Sweatshirt)

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Earl-SweatshirtEarl Sweatshirt: He’s doing things again! On Friday, the enigmatic rap cult hero will release Some Rap Songs, his third proper solo album. We’ve already heard his songs “Nowhere2Go” and “The Mint,” as well as his brief appearance on Vince Staples’ album FM! And now we learn that Sweatshirt … More »

Earl Sweatshirt – “The Mint” (Feat. Navy Blue)

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A couple of weeks ago, Californian rap cult hero Earl Sweatshirt broke a long silence, releasing the new track “Nowhere2Go.” The new song came after a performance at the all-star Mac Miller memorial concert and a short cameo on Vince Staples’ FM! album. But if anyone thought Earl was … More »

Earl Sweatshirt – “Nowhere2Go”

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Earl-SweatshirtCalifornian rap cult hero Earl Sweatshirt has been gone for too long. Earl hasn’t released an album since 2015’s I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, and he hasn’t exactly been keeping himself in the public eye, either. This past summer, Earl cancelled a number of tour dates, citing anxiety … More »

Livestream Mac Miller Tribute Concert With Travis Scott, SZA, Vince Staples & More

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It’s been nearly two months since Mac Miller passed away of an overdose at 26. Tonight, he’ll be memorialized with a tribute concert at the Greek Theatre in LA, which will feature many of Miller’s friends and collaborators including Chance The Rapper, Vince Staples, Travis Scott, SZA, Ty Dolla Sign, Action … More »