Earl Sweatshirt
Sick!


3.5
great

Review

by Erwann S. STAFF
January 24th, 2022 | 93 replies


Release Date: 2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Fuck a second chance, I won't let the devil in

Earl Sweatshirt has always been a man of few words. Far from Tyler, the Creator's zaniness, or Frank Ocean's gentle melancholy, the former Odd Future member has built a reputation of a tangled rhymes crafter. Each of his tracks features rhyme schemes built within other rhyme schemes, one catching up with the other (or vice versa) by the sheer manipulation of syllables and rhythms. No flippancy, no catchy chorus: only complex bars testifying to the rapper's - often tragic - state of mind.

Indeed, Earl's music has consistently tackled devastated territory - his grandmother's death on Doris, or his father's death on Some Rap Songs. Indulging in a pessimistic aura, his depressive flows and surreal samples have helped define the modern trends of abstract hip hop - far from the over-the-top egotrips of his idol MF DOOM, and closer to the misanthropy of Lil Ugly Mane. Yet Sick! acts as a pivotal point for Earl, showcasing optimism that was previously unknown to him. Not that he's now delivering cheery ad-libs or talking about cute lil cats, but this new album indicates that his new responsibilities have influenced his music.

Two of the album's influences - his recent fatherhood and the pandemic - shape its lyrical content. The record's title alone immediately indicates the importance of COVID in the lyrics. References to masks, vaccines, quarantines and other joyous topics that have brightened up our holiday season sit alongside lyrics demonstrating the new responsibility he feels for his son. These two subjects force him to take a stand, he who until now preferred to spit his introspective diatribe. The title track sees him observing the fragility of life with the constant presence of disease, drugs, and violence. If this would have previously been an excuse for self-commiseration, he now addresses his ambition and how the risks he has taken have brought him the success he has reaped. With this title track, Earl shows us a new side of his personality: he's proud of his work - good for you bro! Similarly, in "Vision", Earl talks about how his success has benefited the people closest to him, while at the same time criticising the social ills that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. These themes stand throughout the album: it's about acceptance and moving forward in the face of new challenges. Small aside - that's what makes Sick! an interesting album: Earl is doing better. I am happy that he is happy. I am happy to be able to write these words about an artist who has deserved a lil light in his life. Okay; posi vibes: out! Back to reviewing.

What doesn't change, however, is the length of the album. Since 2015, Earl has made a point of delivering records under thirty minutes, and this new opus is no exception. Most of the tracks are barely over a minute, and only three of them are over three minutes - an eternity for him these days. One of these tracks, "Tabula Rasa", sees him deliver a technical feat where words are stretched out from their original pronunciation, while the Armand Hammer duo - billy woods the rapper and Elucid the beatmaker - brings a welcome diversity against a backdrop of jazzy textures that reminisce his past work while bringing a slight twist to it thanks to the drumless canvas. This approach looms over the whole record: Earl dresses his traditionally lo-fi and cloudy hip hop with the darkest aesthetics of trap ("2010"), and sometimes with aerial synth chords almost devoid of beats ("Tabula Rasa"). Dilla's influence is also still evident with haunting organs and reverb-soaked guitars - "God Laughs" is almost psychedelic - keep calm, ain't no Can though.

While this sonic eclecticism is to be praised, one can't help but want moar. This is partly due to the short time frame offered to most of the tracks - but not only. The songs' brevity was not a problem on the previous project, precisely because the album was assembled to be a fluid suite. Here, it's not so much the case anymore, especially because tracks sporting "classic" lengths are proper entities and no longer represent pieces of a cryptic puzzle. Ultimately, there are several tracks here that can survive in the wild age of streaming, yet the record doesn't feel that cohesive. It was to be feared, but Sick! suffers from the comparison with its predecessor, Some Rap Songs - which remains one of the best abstract hip hop albums of the last decade. Nevertheless, Earl Sweatshirt proves that he prevails above the fray when it comes to capturing an emotional snapshot. His rapological talent is still there as well as the anxiety-inducing beats, but he doesn't do a complete overhaul here, preferring to take only a half-step forward by expanding the length of just a few songs.

In a way, it's not doing Sick! justice to analyse it through the prism of auteur theory when you know the consistent quality of the discography it's part of. Eh, that's the game: an artist releasing a first project of this caliber would be beyond hyped. Earl, on the other hand, will have to be content with a few polite applauses, far from the effervescence usually provoked by his albums. It's tough. But we are more demanding with those we love.



Recent reviews by this author
Bolis Pupul Letter to YuIDLES TANGK
Kinoteki Faith and the VesselGeorge Clanton Ooh Rap I Ya
Militarie Gun Life Under The GunAscendant Vierge Une nouvelle chance
user ratings (251)
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
dedex
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2022


12788 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

aaaaaaaaaand this review is too long yay!

here's your thread, babes

JeetJeet
January 24th 2022


12295 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

best album he's made in years

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2022


19030 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

checking this now because of this review, great write up

AlexKzillion
January 24th 2022


17555 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ehhh after 5-6 listens I think this is prob his worst, even if it is still rather good. Isn't nearly as interesting as SRS imo.

bloc
January 24th 2022


70400 Comments


Never been the biggest fan, but this is solid

JayEnder
January 24th 2022


20438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Niceee one dedex! This desperately needed a review.



Album rules, but could have been fleshed out just a bit more. SRS was more of an "artistic statement" whereas this album seems like a mixtape of really fun songs that Earl had lying around.

dedex
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2022


12788 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

aye cheerz lads



yeah so this good but not his best but still good!

JayEnder
January 24th 2022


20438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Vision is so dope

CottonSalad
January 24th 2022


2467 Comments


Isn't nearly as interesting as SRS [2]

still good! [2]


trilo
January 24th 2022


6447 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this rulez and i def prefer this to SRS but still feel underwhelmed

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2022


27814 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'll try this for sure, love his material of late

rabidfish
January 24th 2022


8740 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

good review, didn't know he became a father recently.

I liked this more than his last project. SRS might have been concieved as a whole piece, i still found it all over the place and aimless. This got some cool tunes and more interesting rapping.

It is a little short and there's nothing TOO interesting or boundry-pushing, but that seems to be the rule when one stops being miserable 24/7.



off topic a bit, but i can't really think of any decently famous musician that produced their better work during a steady and happy period of their life. Not trying to glorify misery or shit, like i said i think this is better than SRS, but still... maybe Tom Waits? he sobered up and continued to make amazing music. But that's it out the top of my head.

edit: to be more precise, can't really think of any artist that's famous for their troubled/complicated/traumatic personal life that got their more recognized or celebrated work out in a period of stability and "happiness". I'm well aware that there's a bunch of well adjusted, decently happy musicians out there making amazing music.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2022


27993 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great review!

JayEnder
January 24th 2022


20438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Wait what? Earl has a son?

loveisamixtape
January 24th 2022


12343 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

he does



https://www.instagram.com/p/CMq3dqvh4nD/?utm_medium=copy_link



pic 4 of this photo set

JayEnder
January 24th 2022


20438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Damn I had no idea! Tried to look him up on insta multiple times, couldn't find him.



Probably because his @ is soapmanwun for some reason lol

oltnabrick
January 24th 2022


40727 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Liked this a bit yeah

Hyperion1001
Emeritus
January 24th 2022


26494 Comments


that zelooperz track is so good omg

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2022


47778 Comments

Album Rating: 2.9

great review. big agree with the happy he's happy sentiment but it's comfortably his worst full length album. feels like scraps from a few different projects, which it literally is - wouldn't be a problem if they were sequenced/flowed better, but it *feels* like a bunch of songs thrown together and I can't get past it



that last three song run though? money

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2022


4052 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

'billy woods the rapper and Elucid the beatmaker' -- Is this right? Elucid does make beats, but from what I know he's mostly a rapper, raps on that track, and didn't produce it (from what I saw of the production credits, unless he's using another name).

Also, not sure I understand your 'man of few words thing': because he doesn't interact with the public much? or because of his concise writing? regardless seems to me like he's a man of many, many words, unless you just mean to draw attention to how he says a lot in relatively few words.

Also I love this album!!! I reckon it's probably his best (although, SRS...). I think it flows better than any of his others, and even though yes it's a collection of scraps it comes together really damn well. Thematically he pulls all these seemingly disparate threads and overlaps them and spins them into this complex web (!!!) of sickness (!!!) and I think it's super interesting.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2023 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy