ALBUM REVIEW: Earl Sweatshirt’s Earl

“They thought I was cute, ‘til I asked what the ass [is] like” – Earl Sweatshirt

urban-hip-hop-skull-head1.thumbnail.jpgBY MATTHEW HENGEVELD For the past few days I’ve been thinking about Earl. No, not the hurricane— I mean Earl Sweatshirt, the rapper. Since stepping onto the scene earlier this year, Earl has made quite a name for himself. He’s part of Odd Future (aka OFWGKTA; aka Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All), featuring other hopefuls like Domo Genesis and Wolf Haley. Here’s the weird shit though; Earl is only 16.

In fact, Odd Future is comprised entirely of adolescents— mostly skateboarders. But don’t think for a second that Earl is on some Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em bullshit. Earl molests beats, sometimes literally. His lyrical content makes Eminem sound like your grandmother, and his ease-of-flow is comparable to rappers that have spent 10 years honing their skills. He sounds like a mix between Philly’s own Spank Rock and This Guy. The fine folks at have Earl poised against Jay Electronica for the finals of the “best new rapper” tournament— the contest started with over 50 rappers, Earl is in the top 2! The grime that comes from Earl’s mouth is just nauseating at times, like listening to Rush Limbaugh while being stuck in traffic. Nothing is too extreme or taboo for Earl, and I guess he gets a pass because he’s 16. I mean, fuck, what would I have rapped about when I earl-sweatshirt.jpgwas 16? My learners permit? Naw. How about some crazy shit, like having a threesome with Miley Cyrus and Billy Ray Cyrus? That’s the shit Earl is on. He’s rapping about the fucked up nonsense you used to talk to your friends about at the lockers. With lines like “You’re Fantasia and the body bag is a fucking book” Earl and friends are bound to gain some attention.

Sometimes he goes over-the-line with songs about rape and murdering cops— which is somewhat normal in hip-hop, but hearing it from a 16 year old is kinda, well, icky. Despite the outlandishly foul lyrics, there’s something essentially human about Earl. His odd thoughts about tyrannosaurus dicks on wolves’ bodies are really just unfiltered streams of consciousness. He’s like the Charles Bukowski of rap. Other Odd Future rappers, Ace Creator, WOLF, Hodgy Beats and Vince Staples, join Earl. Most good rappers have sub-par crews. Not so with Earl. The talent seems fairly uniform throughout Odd Future, though Earl seems to garner the most attention. I’m not the first to make the comparison between Odd Future and the Wu. Keep the “Method Man” skit in mind.

Though Earl would probably sound ill over any beat, Tyler, 19, is a beatmaker extraordinaire. ‘90s style sampling mixed with deep bass that exude a strong 8-bit element that rumble just about any set of speakers. Its like a mix between Pete Rock and Lil’ Jon trapped inside a game of Asteroids. Opening “thisniggaugly” sounds like a homage to Illmatic’s “The Genesis” with its sometimes incoherent rambling and heavy street vernacular. “Earl” the title-emcee’s opener has a crushing saw-toothed synth that sounds as blood-soaked as Earl’s lyrics. Odd spots for the beat to drop remind me of Dilla’s production on “Untitled” off Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 2.  The transition between Earl and WOLF on “Pigions” sounds like Dilla’s awkward transitions on “The Clapper.” Now, I’m not gonna say that Earl is the “next best thing.” He’s got a lot of growing to do, but who knows where he can take it? Sadly, Earl is currently “serving time” in boot camp on some Maury Pauvich shit. Hopefully he gets out soon and banks off the success.

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