Review Summary: Don't let your children listen to this when they're sober.
The late 2000s in my opinion, are the most depressing gaggle of years for current music in modern history. If not for all music, then most definitely for Rap and Hip-Hop. Rap has been my favorite genre since I was about 10. Before that I hated it, and now I'm starting to see why I did. Rap is such a schizophrenic style of music, that you really have to sift through a lot of sub par work to find the goodies. Unfortunately these days, you have to dig a lot harder to find good rap, at least in terms of modern acts. Before listening to EARL, I have to admit, I hadn't liked any rap album I have heard at all since the year began.
Enter Earl Sweatshirt's debut "album
": Earl is a member of the Odd Future crew, along with his brother Tyler, they're a bunch of rascal kids who love dismemberment and skateboarding. and I say album sarcastically because of the short length. Even if Classics like ILLmatic where around the same time frame, something about the album feels unfinished. I have no clue whether this is a lack of cohesion on Earl's part, the desire for more material on my part, or both. You can tell a lot about the album by it's cover: a warped, inexplicably disturbing picture of a seemingly innocent mullet-sporting child with what seems to be intentionally bad effects and fonts. I always enjoy a subtly disturbing album cover. Guts, brains, and sickles always came across as trying too hard. The mindset of the album is anything but subtle. The lyrics are over the top, crass, childish, and not on the lyrical level of a GZA
. But that's Earl's charm, by sprouting off insensitive, mean, and cheap lyrics, Earl manages to be entertaining, and way more talented the the Jerk Rap movement that is going on in his home state.
Let's establish that the album is not an amazing album. In almost no sense of the word is it a consistently great effort. The lyrics are not powerful, truthful, or even meaningful. While Earl has a long way to go before he can get deserved media attention, he needs to grow. Although it'd be unfair to expect a relatively unknown 16 year old to be polished and fully grown, it's obvious that Earl isn't in his peak yet. Despite this, you can tell that there is a real voice behind the intentionally shocking lyrics. The truth is that it's fairly obvious this young man and the entire odd future crew are going for the Slim Shady LP mixed with Gravediggaz
and snuff porn type of atmosphere. This is prevalent on songs like "epaR" (yes, it's means what you think it does)
"Aren't you a little to young to be drivin'"/Look officer i'm just tryin to get home/
Get out the ***in car with you license and registration/ I ain't gettin out of *** and you're startin to try my patience/didn't have backup I could tell by the humming bike/
reached to the glove, grabbed the mother***in huntin knife Stabbed him in his neck and hip threw him and the trunk and dipped...
Even though this album is considered an Earl Sweatshirt release, all Odd Future related albums become more group efforts than solo albums. Between Earl's age, and the group mentality of Odd Future, it's hard for Earl to get a moment to himself, but despite this, Earl establishes throughout that he is the featured rapper on this album. That said, the guest appearances are a nice touch, and definitely give the album a boost. However, the biggest strength of the album is the production. The beats are abstract, creepy, and most importantly catchy. songs like "couch" are so well produced, and fit the tone of the lyrics that it's almost difficult to pay attention to those lyrics without getting lost in the beat. While just about every song has its disturbing moments, some consider this a Horrorcore album. This is something i disagree with. While the album focuses a lot on death and violence. The tone of the album typically ranges between apathetic and sarcastic. Earl somehow takes himself less seriously than major Horrorcore artists on a given album, while simultaneously matching their lyrical pessimism.
It's hard to pick a highlight on the album. All are good, but none of them demand to be considered classics. Some have great production, but leave something to be desired lyrically. Moonlight has an amazing beat, but the song itself is too short, does not feature a full verse from Earl and isn't lyrically that exciting. Still the beat alone is worth the price of admission. I guess the Title track and "Couch" are the best representations of the album: Unsettling production, and flat out mean lyrics. The album is riddled with drug references, rape and murder, the word "Fag", and nasty sexual lyrics. If this is a deal-breaker for you, I doubt you'll care for this. But if you like a little something off the beaten path, or just flat out mean and nasty, then you may just like this little album.
It may not be life changing, but it's a breath of fresh air for someone like me, who is flat out sick of where Hip-Hop is going, and more importantly, a sign what i hope are things to come. If Earl Sweatshirt manages to stay in the studio, he may just acquire the gross assortment of fans he so badly wants. While EARL isn't ingenious, irreverent, or original. There's something endearing about an album with lyrics like: "It's Earl, missed the late shift. Rapist in training
" and "Now pan the cameras back to me and pamela's amateur threesome with hannah montana's manager/Miley feedin' me Sandwiches for my stamina and santa's in the back laughin' cause my back crampin' up
", it's very easy to tell whether or not you'd be into Earl. Obviously lyrics don't have the same effect when read, but the most common gripe is that this album is too crass to be appreciated by some. And while this isn't the type of album that could win a rap cynic over, it's a nice little guilty pleasure for those of us bored to death by modern rap.