'Some Rap Songs': Earl Sweatshirt's Journey of Self-Reflection
BY MARK DEMAURO
Earl Sweatshirt has finally stepped back into the spotlight to release his first album in three years, Some Rap Songs. The album dropped just last Friday.
When people bring up the infamous collective Odd Future, a lot of names come to mind. Syd, The Internet, Frank Ocean, Taco, Jasper, and of course Tyler the Creator are just a few, all with their own levels of solo success and fame in music. However, one member that has been relatively self-hidden from the spotlight of the group is Earl Sweatshirt. Earl was always a standout member, being the more underground rapper of the group with projects such as his self-titled mixtape Earl, his debut album Doris and I Don't Like S**t, I Don't Go Outside (IDLSIDGO).
Now three years and a whole lot of traumatic events later, Earl is back with new music in Some Rap Songs. He lost his close friend, Mac Miller, and his father, Keorapeste Kgositsile, affecting his mental health immensely. In fact, Earl had to cancel a tour because of how serious his depression got. Then news came he was working on new music for 2018 and fans were all wondering what it would sound like, what the content would be, and most importantly, was he okay?
Earl gave insight on what the album, Some Rap Songs, would sound like with the first single, "Nowhere2go." The song is very experimental on a musical front while also being emotionally reflective on his current mental state. He discusses his drug addictions, his relationships with the people around him, and the way these relationships affected his mental health journey. He does gives serious thanks to some of his friends who were there for him in his time of need and even helped him musically, such as MIKE, Medhane, and Adé Hakim.
Lyrics like, "Tryna refine this shit, I redefined myself" and "I found a new way to cope, it ain't no slave in my soul, but I keep the memories close by even when I hit a low, I still give thanks to the most high" allude to Earl's progress. It seems as if Earl is searching for the higher power above to give him strength. Even when he does get low in his music, he holds onto the memories of his past and his religion to bring him back up and keep moving forward. "Nowhere2go" acted as a great track for fans to catch up with Earl after all these years, and a great taste of what Some Rap Songs would be about.
Some Rap Songs can be easily described as that, a reflection. A lot of the content on this album -- from the contemplative lyrics to the explorative production -- reflects Earl's current mindset after all the negative he has experienced.
The opening track, "Shattered Dreams," starts with the phrase "imprecise words," meaning words that can't match up to what is being portrayed to listeners, possibly implying that Earl wants listeners to keep a careful eye and ear on what's being delivered so they can fully understand the weight of his past experiences. On this same track, Earl is able to perfectly communicate the horrifying feeling of drowning with no sign of a hand to help one out of the abyss.
Later, on the track "December 24," gets deeper and examines Earl's alcoholism and the drought he went in after his grandmother's passing. He raps: "'member when they had my grandmammy on a drip drink? How much of that gin straight? Could have filled a fish tank." However, on this track he comes out at the end in a position of power with what he has learned for himself to grow and do right for himself. The beat is the most aggressive on the album and Earl's delivery is loud and energetic.
In tracks like "Azucar," "Eclipse," and "Veins," Earl shows his true vulnerability as he looks back on negative past experiences and how he has transformed them as means for mental and emotional growth. "Veins" is an important track in the sequence for it recognizes all of the weight Earl has and urges listeners to realize they must take the good with the bad in order to truly grow as a person.
It should be noted that Some Rap Songs isn't an as easy listen as his debut, Doris was much like IDLSIDGO and its production. A lot of the production and sampling comes from Earl's taste in old school jazz, some beats even produced by himself under the alias "RandomBlackDude." However, this album has some of the most experimental beats Earl has ever rapped over. Some of the beats and sounds seem distorted, as if they are falling apart and even glitching throughout various tracks. Sometimes the production feels like it is clashing together and Earl's raps fight to be heard. This, perhaps, recreates the state of his mind, the damage being done to him by his trauma, and how it took a toll on him. It goes back to the concept of "imprecise words" and not being able to do justice with just words so Earl utilizes sonic elements to truly communicate his pain and struggles.
It's safe to say Earl has lived through harsh times and come a long way; all of that comes together on this album. Some Rap Songs is an honest reflection of where Earl is currently at in his life -- no matter how dark -- making this one of the most important records of the year.
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