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Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt took the hip hop world by storm in early 2010 when he dropped the self-released mixtape, EARL, to critical acclaim. EARL showcased his impeccable flow and featured intricate lyrics, as well as vile subject matter reminiscent of Eminem’s early work. Even more impressive was the fact that, at the time of its release, Earl had just turned sixteen, earning himself the designation of a young rap prodigy.
After seemingly falling off the face of the earth for two years (his mother sent him to boarding school in Samoa), Earl re-appeared in 2012 to the delight of fans, and just this past week he released his debut album, Doris; perhaps the most highly anticipated hip hop album of the year.
Throughout the CD, Earl’s growth as a songwriter is evident by his complex flow, unconventional song format (hooks are a rarity and instrumental twists and turns are abundant), and more mature subject matter. Gone are the shock-provoking, nefarious lyrics that permeated EARL, which have been replaced by thoughtful observation and insightful introspection.
The intro, “Pre,” kicks off with a weak verse from the relatively unknown rapper, SK La Flare. This almost seems like a sick joke considering the level of anticipation surrounding the album’s release. Earl is able to salvage the track with a few slick bars, and thankfully the remaining thirteen songs are superb. The following track, “Burgundy,” features Earl somberly discussing the lofty expectations that have been placed on him over wonderful production by the Neptunes.
“Hive” finds Earl in top lyrical form as he crams a plethora of assonant rhymes into each bar over an intense, dark instrumental. On “Chum,” the albums most personal track, Earl mulls over his strained relationship with his father, addresses his issues with substance abuse, and recounts being shipped away to boarding school while on the brink of rising fame and success. You can check out the videos for these two singles below.
The overall outcome is a dark, brooding album with unconventional production and complex, compelling lyrics. The album requires repeated listens to fully grasp and appreciate, but this proves to be all the more rewarding in the end. Doris not only showcases Earl’s immense talent as a writer, but also demonstrates his skills and creativity as a producer. The result is one of the most innovative hip hop releases of the year and an overall excellent record.
Earl Sweatshirt - Hive (Explicit)
Earl Sweatshirt - Chum (Explicit)
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