Earl Sweatshirt
Some Rap Songs


4.2
excellent

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
December 2nd, 2018 | 251 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "make it brief son, half short and twice strong"

The first thing you notice is the stuttering beats, tailormade to be etched on vinyl and looped to eternity. I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside was made to sound like it was falling apart, decaying beats barely keeping time with even Earl's most soporific flows, but Some Rap Songs is superbly summed up by the man himself as "kind of a hissing thing" - a companion album where the music blows the cobwebs from the corners and creakily starts pulling itself back together, kick by beat by snare. Accordingly, Earl takes steps to acknowledge the world outside of his room, tentative as they are - "stuck in Trumpland watching subtlety decaying [...] been a minute since I heard applause", returning always to his mature and measured perspective. You're not sure at first that the album will cohere - "Red Water" is just a short verse repeated four times after all, like I know the album's called Some Rap Songs but where are the goddamn songs – but that's when you hit "Nowhere2go". Every loop reveals another layer to the undulating beat, but for the first time thus far it's Earl taking the spotlight, rising above the track with a tired yet hopeful rap that's so melodic he's nearly singing. And in case you were worried the boy wouldn't spit, it's followed quickly by "December 24", a song dating back years under the name "Bad Acid" which provides the strongest link to the more aggressive and conventional early 2010s Earl. Just as you're beginning to suspect there's a bigger purpose to the sequencing, one which refuses to ease the listener in with the more accessible tracks in favour of dropping you right in the deep end, "The Mint" enters as a confident and effortless bop which changes the game entirely. Highlight after highlight jostles for attention in Some Rap Songs' breathtaking second half, each song entirely unique and rarely needing more than a minute to end. "The Bends"' manic Atrocity Exhibition-style sample warp might be the best example of the half-short-twice-strong mentality, while "Loosie" is a spiritual sequel to the freestyle "Off Top" which replaces the Liquid Swords-quoting beat with a contorted keyboard jam. Detractors might call Some Rap Songs unfinished-sounding or simplistic, pointing to the 15 tracks that barely eclipse the length of Kanye's 7-track Wyoming albums earlier this year. But Earl is a formalist who knows exactly when he's done making his point, a skill that puts him above most contemporaries just as firmly as his lyrical talents.

Those who've been paying attention know well by now that Earl Sweatshirt is technically gifted, a poet's son in every sense, and he's far from concerned with proving that once again this time around - the album even opens warning you of imprecise words to come. That's because as an imagistic rapper, Sweatshirt is easily one of the best alive, but the pictures he paints aren't the vivid blood-soaked crime tales of inspirations like GZA nor the joke-heavy punchline vehicles of Tyler or Rocky. For example "early morning wash my swollen hands" is already an iconic Earl line; it calls to mind a static, one-shot idea that can haunt your thoughts all day, in the vein of truly wrenching shit like "I got my grandmamma's hands, I start to cry when I see 'em". Lines that aren't written so much as carved onto interior walls that can't fade.

Even though the first 13 songs were recorded before the event, Keorapetse Kgositsile's death hangs heavily over the album – this is music intended to reconcile with a father who would never hear a note of it, a fact that inevitably colours every second of its runtime. Like on "Playing Possum", where the easy choice would have been to bookend the song with the speech by Earl's mother and the poetry of his father, consigning them to polar opposite ends. Instead the two overlap, cutting across distance and time with an editing trick as simple as changing a radio station, one which magnificently conjures up a childhood of watching two human beings at cross purposes, "distracted and inconsistent in [their] attention", unable to properly communicate. It even sounds like the song cuts back and forth between the different sets of crowds clapping, a minute touch that's, to me, more heartbreaking than anything Earl says across the album. All this in little over a minute without the man needing to rap a word. That's a weapon that's deployed a lot here, especially given that the album scrapes under 25 minutes long and most of the last 5 are instrumental. Even then, "Peanut" is horrifying not because of the lyrics, but a viscerally uncomfortable beat like traumatic memories scraping together in the dark. "Riot!" couldn't be more of an opposite, a peaceful, sunny, near-jaunty credits roll that recalls what "Enjoy Right Now, Today!" might sound like through Earl's hyper-focused musical framework. That's until you realise the calming guitar lick is a sample of Earl's uncle Hugh Masekela, who departed the world just a few weeks after Earl's own father - a nightmarish one-two punch that colours Some Rap Songs' most hopeful moment with the taste of ashes.

In the Vulture interview Earl talked about completion, noting the challenge he set himself with the beats: "to write something complete to a loop, I feel like it takes a lot." But I think it took more than he had this time around. This is not a satisfying, gratifying or complete piece of music – hell, if the concerts are any indication, Some Rap Songs is less than half of the new music Earl Sweatshirt has sitting in his vaults. But it wouldn't be complete even at double the length, or replete with "Hive" and "Grief"-style bangers, because there's a void at the centre of this album by design, one that a more contented and measured surface cannot disguise. And if that sounds like a massive bummer, good grief, where did you think you were"



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
December 2nd 2018


40866 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

the Vulture interview is really great -

https://www.vulture.com/2018/11/interview-earl-sweatshirt.html

Digging: Earl Sweatshirt - Some Rap Songs

ramon.
Contributing Reviewer
December 2nd 2018


2653 Comments


summary is some false advertising this review long as hell lmao

rabidfish
December 2nd 2018


4378 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

''This is not a satisfying, gratifying or complete piece of music''



u said it, partner

Digging: JMSN - Velvet

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
December 2nd 2018


40866 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

i sure did say those things you just said i said

rabidfish
December 2nd 2018


4378 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

glad we can agree that the new Earl Sweatshirt album: Some Rap Songs



"... is not a satisfying, gratifying or complete piece of music (...)there's a void at the centre of this album(...) massive downer[end quote]"



edit: Wait you gave this a 4.2 lmao

Evrimen
December 2nd 2018


133 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Lol seriously the rating seems conflicted with many sentences written here

verdant
Staff Reviewer
December 2nd 2018


2321 Comments


earl is a depression

EphemeralEternity
December 2nd 2018


3138 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i don't know what's worse the pathetic excuse for an album or this review or rowan as a person

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
December 2nd 2018


24241 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

nice rev row

Wildhoney
December 2nd 2018


301 Comments


Is that sarcasm? I legit can't tell anymore

Cool review mostly, though I am also perplexed by that last paragraph

BlushfulHippocrene
Contributing Reviewer
December 2nd 2018


2654 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Beautiful writing. I agree with all above comments, no matter their content.

Digging: Lil Zubin - Heavy Down Pour

Winesburgohio
Contributing Reviewer
December 2nd 2018


2397 Comments


@Rabid https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEGFaOeUm2A

Digging: ITEM - Sad Light

Hawks
December 2nd 2018


64329 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Album Rating: 3.0



i don't know what's worse the pathetic excuse for an album

Digging: Azelisassath - In Total Contempt of All Life

verdant
Staff Reviewer
December 2nd 2018


2321 Comments


this is a very good review i think

MarsKid
December 2nd 2018


7741 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

The idea (I'm assuming) is that the album is left intentionally scattered/incomplete because the narrator behinds its creation is similarly in pieces, which adds to the album's complexity/emotional payoff. Which I don't think is that much of a stretch considering people in the past have described other albums in such terms, even going as far as to say it doesn't sound as music/good at all--but still giving kudos.

Digging: Noise Trail Immersion - Symbology of Shelter

THVRTVVN
December 2nd 2018


450 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

man nah he looped some beats and rapped over em really low in the mix, that's that

THVRTVVN
December 2nd 2018


450 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

in a fairly lackluster fashion most of the time not to mention

MarsKid
December 2nd 2018


7741 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Oh I'm just defending Rowan's potential point, I haven't heard this album so I won't speak to its merits, if there are any. I probably will dislike it a fair bit so don't see much of a point.

rabidfish
December 2nd 2018


4378 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

@wines lmao classic...



i think the review makes a good point, tho it don't read like a 4.2 review.

But that's ok, a number is just a number, a review can be much more nuanced than that and it doesn't necesarily need to boil down to an explanation on the rating. That'd be boring af.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
December 2nd 2018


40866 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

yeah like was tryina say the incompleteness is the point, it's in the song lengths and loops, hell it's in the album title. didn't realise it was unclear



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