Compared to most other artists, Earl Sweatshirt is following a bit of a backwards career arc. In what is now essentially cliche, artists or bands who rocket from obscurity to popularity early in their lives are supposed to have one hot song, maybe even a whole album if they're lucky, tour off its initial strength for a while, try to match that success on their sophomore album, fail miserably, sink into obscurity for several years, and then re-emerge with a comeback tour once their first claim to fame becomes cool again.
Earl, on the other hand, saw his fame balloon at light speed, thanks in small part to the internet, but in large part to his shocking, uncensored, Fox-News-pundit-fodder lyrics and music videos. When you're 16 and you make a rap video wherein you and your friends drink a blender full of drugs and alcohol and then proceed to mutilate each other on skateboards, you are definitely going to attract attention. When the lyrics to said video include references to date rape, underage sex and murder, to name a few questionable topics, you're basically asking Bill O'Reilly to have an on-air aneurism and then insist this is "what's wrong with America."
And maybe he would be right. Earl and his Odd Future affiliates' real talents, in the music media's eyes at least, long remained buried underneath the alleged homophobia and incitement to violence and depravity in their rhymes. This was supposedly why Earl's mother saw it fit to pull him out of school soon before Odd Future was about to strike it big and enroll him in a program for at-risk youth in Samoa for a year. The group's spearhead, Tyler, the Creator, and the rest of the OF crew got massively famous in the meantime, and when Earl returned in the beginning of last year, he came as the long-lost hero who would save rap music. That's a lot for anyone to handle, let alone an 18-year-old.
Now, a little over a year since "going missing," Earl is on his comeback tour, and he seems like he couldn't be happier. That's unsurprising considering the huge fanbase that Odd Future has built up since his departure. I arrived at the Metro at 7:00, which was when the show was supposed to start. I figured there would be a decent crowd there already but nothing too huge - every rap show I've been to before included several openers and lots of waiting. Much to my surprise, I waited over an hour for anything to happen on stage, and pretty much the entire floor was packed when I arrived. When things did start happening, though, this turned into one of the most fun rap shows I've been to.
I've always thought Earl was probably the most talented member of Odd Future. I like how he draws obvious influence from Wu-Tang and MF DOOM in his flow, but also is very much his own man. When he returned to the States, I was excited for what lie ahead, and so far it's been everything I had hoped for. He ditched the murder and rape stuff in his lyrics (mostly) and adopted a much more honest and heartfelt tone. He's also made the rounds with big shots like Flying Lotus and even DOOM himself on a recently released track. His second album, "Doris," was released this summer to much acclaim. With all this already under his belt, there's no doubt he will soon become something of a legend in hip-hop.
His skill as a showman is not quite so refined, but the Metro crowd hardly cared. OF member Taco kicked things off for Earl, playing one trap banger after another. When Earl finally took the stage with Vince Staples, the house was nearly brought down. Earl was clearly taken aback by the unrelenting energy of the crowd, and remained characteristically reserved but definitely overwhelmed at the sight of people losing their minds to his music. He seemed to be concentrating hard throughout the show, maybe a little too much. A little bit more swagger on his part could go a long way towards his stage presence, but he was rocking with it nonetheless. Maybe it was because his mom was in the crowd, whom he introduced towards the end of the show. She seemed ecstatic to be there and was even dancing a little bit. Who says Odd Future isn't family friendly?
Earl Sweatshirt & Vince Staples
Just about every song Earl knew was played, which he mentioned at the end when announcing his last song ("I've only made like 20 songs my whole life, I just did all of them.") Highlights included the famed OF remix of "Orange Juice," "EARL," and just about anything off his new album. Vince Staples held his own as well, with the two going off on a cappella freestyle tangents frequently and skillfully.
All told, it was a sign of great things to come for the only 19-years-old artist. As he matures, so too will his music and aesthetic (hopefully), and that is great news for hip-hop fans.
Odd Future fans, get ready to find Earl in your city come this Fall as he's about to embark on his first solo tour to many big cities on both coasts, through the midwest, and even up to Vancouver, Canada. As you can see, peep the dates above.
Some label news this weekend courtesy of a small detail in Earl Sweatshirt's Doris liner notes. "Vince Staples appears courtesy of Blacksmith/A.G./Def Jam Recordings". Congrats to the fast rising Staples who's been stockpiling name collab after name collab this summer. Definitely a bigger blip on our radar now as well.
Captain Murphy, Viktor Vaughn, Earl Sweatshirt, & Thundercat
PRODUCTION Captain Murphy (AkA Flying Lotus)
SUBMITTED BY PlacDos
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Captain Murphy aka Flying Lotus gets his creative juices flowing with this one. One of Adult Swims Single Series which is set to drop this Monday got leaked like any other great tracks would. Captain Murphys raper alter-ego goes and recruits Viktor Vaughn aka MF DOOM, Earl Sweatshirt, and well know Flying lotus collaborator Thundercat. Putting together a raunchy track with a villainy beat to go well with these artist. Excited to hear MF DOOM on a track again with Earl and two well respected producers/ artists. Take a listen and download it! Trust me, well worth it!
I immediately got excited at the Frank Ocean feature, but let down when he wasn't singing on the track. Instead he was talk-rapping about some recent experiences and wondering aloud about such on his verse. I couldn't really get into this one, quite honestly. I need to hear more smoothness; this felt more like an interlude. However, Doris is on the way on August 20th and this will be one of the tracks that jumps out at you.
Dreams really do come true! Ever since I first laid ears on Earl Sweatshirt, of OFWGKTA fame, I've always been impressed by him, but also admired that he clearly took cues from one of my favorite rappers ever, MF DOOM. I would fantasize about a collaborative effort by the two emcees like a longshot daydream.
And now it seems this may be a reality? Consequence of Sound reports that in a recent DJ set, glitch extraordinaire Flying Lotus dropped a new track featuring verses by DOOM and Earl. CoS speculates this may be appearing on Earl's soon to be released LP "Doris." Let's hope so, and let's hope it's not the last we hear from the duo (trio?).
Readers of message boards and comment sections on every hip hop site are tuned in to the discord among Earl Sweatshirt's fans and his dissenters. The argument of the latter group is that Earl isn't established enough to warrant the hype that has surrounded his upcoming debut studio album Doris. Those familiar with the young rapper's 2010 self-titled mixtape and of his recent leaks off Doris, however, know otherwise. Here are the 3 main ways in which Doris has already surpassed Earl's excellence:
1. It's more approachable.
The first time I saw the "Earl" video I was left shocked and slightly nauseated. It's purposefully vile, no doubt to match the vulgarity of the song and reflect the unconventional style that Odd Future is now known for. The video for "Hive" off of Doris accomplishes all of the above in a much more easily digestible manner, and if anything, calls more attention to Sweatshirt's lyricism with it's simplicity. "Hive" shows off a mature, relaxed Earl, "like it's nothing, cause it's nothing b*tch."
2. It shows multiple sides of the artist.
Before the recent release of "Hive" came "Whoa," and before that "Chum." Chum offers an introspective side of Earl not previously seen from the artist, which his good friend Tyler, the Creator is sure to mock within the first 15 seconds of "Whoa." This time around, Sweatshirt is making concious efforts to brandish the complexity that adulthood has surely brought to his career.
3. He's still "that" Earl.
This is clear from his series of recently released promotional videos. In the first video, he appears as Mocha Desire, a 25 year old Earl Sweatshirt groupie who sums up her experience with Doris by stating, "you can't cage a damn ostrich man, it's too big - wings are too big."
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In the second promotional video, released earlier today, he eloquently addresses the haters with a "shut the f*ck up," then quickly and for absolutely no reason jumps off a fence.
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So believe the hype. Doris, hitting iTunes August 20th, is going to be the album of moment, and likely even the year. Be sure to pick it up.