Review Summary: A simpler yet more experimental Earl doesn't quite hit a home-run like some of his previous albums but it's still a solid new direction for the California rapper and producer who still delivers a very listenable burst of solid lo-fi rhymes.
Earl Sweatshirt takes a sizeable departure in his approach to songwriting and production in Some Rap Songs, an album that feels like it's tinkering around with some really interesting ideas but doesn't feel fully realized in its potential. The album is a 14 track collection clocking in at around 25 minutes making this Earl's shortest solo project since the Earl mixtape released back in 2010 and much like Earl this album shares a lot of similar vibes with a very low production value approach.
A mix of more lo-fi MF DOOM-like instrumental forward tracks like Ontheway and almost Afrofusion and electronic dance inspired productions on tracks like Nowhere2go really give this album some wonderful character and the production efforts specifically from Earl, Darryl Anthony and Adé Hakim make the production on this album sparkle. Given Earl's interview with Vulture it makes sense that this album has a very J Dilla feel to its production approach but it doesn't quite get into the same stratosphere as Donuts especially in terms of the album's consistent quality as there are some lackluster productions in the very slouched December 24 and Eclipse which just feels like an unfinished B-side given the almost lazily put together synth loop.
While two weak instrumentals in a 14 track album doesn't break the production qualities for me outside of being a sour note in a classical symphony, this album does suffer in its vocal delivery which is surprising coming from an Earl Sweatshirt album. While Earl states clearly that energy isn't the main focus on Some Rap Songs like in some of his previous works, his delivery is not quite as attention grabbing or prolific as Earl is known for. However, the lyrical writing on Some Rap Songs is still quite refreshing and gives the album a big songwriter vibe that could be something that wouldn't feel out of place on a typical bedroom pop album especially from the self-reflecting Cold Summers and the dark and imaginative Loosie.
The best thing about this album for making itself memorable and heavily re-listenable is through the track lengths. Like how Kanye West approached his newest releases this year in ye and KIDS SEE GHOSTS, Earl goes back into the past of underground hip-hop when short 1-2 minute tracks were common. The short run times were a great stylistic choice as none of Earls ideas overstay their welcome while every track flows into each other quite well to where this album has a great listen-ability that makes me come back to it more than I honestly expected it to. While the ideas proposed by Earl in this very unorthodox album don't get into masterpiece territory, or even Earl mixtape territory, this is still a very solid album and is a great breather for Earl fans who want some early 2010s Earl as well as something new to piece together among this symphony of reflections and dreams.