Album Review: Earl Sweatshirt | I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
Earl Sweatshirt is, incredibly, the only relevant active rapper from Los Angeles hip hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. When OFWGKTA burst onto the scene in 2010, their combination of shock lyrics, juvenility, and dark production helped them ride on a huge wave of hype. Earl was the runt of the group: the rap prodigy, only 16 years old, whose flows and talent were unmatched within the collective. On his sophomore album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, Earl finally fits into a specific sound, and it finally feels like he has weight within the world of hip hop.
On his debut LP Doris, Earl made the decision to essentially remove melodic hooks from his music. The result was a grimy, varied, complete hip hop record that touched on topics like adolescence, life in L.A., and issues within his family. It was one of my favorite albums of that year, and included “Hive”, an absolute stunner of a track which somehow contains more braggadocio than most Rae Sremmurd bangers.
I Don’t Like Shit is much more focused, and as a result, limited in scope. The album flies by at under 30 minutes, but those 30 minutes are as hard-hitting as a traditional rap record can get. On the first single, “Grief”, Earl wallows in his own sorrow and anger, allowing himself to indulge in his frustrations. He speaks on drug usage more than he has ever before (“Chasing dragons … scrambling for Xanax out the canister to pop”). This is the legitimate moment of clarity for Earl; he’s more comfortable than he’s ever been. Earl sounds confident, angry, and abrasive on this record, and is more of a man than he ever was on albums like Bastard.
Later on, Earl enhances this idea as a confident young MC who’s found his place within the world of rap. “Mantra” has more boasts and flexing than any Earl song to date. Earl’s always been one to limit his guest spots, and I Don’t Like Shit is no different. New York rapper Dash bursts onto the scene on “Grown Ups”, creating interesting overlaps and back-and-forths between Earl and himself. Vince Staples, perhaps Earl’s closest associate, absolutely slays on album closer “Wool” (“Soon as I catch the vibe, tell ’em to fetch the hearse”), as we’ve come to expect. Earl produces the vast majority of his own music, and the beats help shape what Earl’s sound is. “Grief”‘s lurching drum scrapes and lo-fi chords compliment the lyrics, as most of the album does.
While some tracks are forgettable, and Na’kel’s guest verse is amateurish and hard to listen to, this is Earl Sweatshirt’s most focused effort yet. Despite being the son of a UCLA professor and African tribal leader, Earl just wants to make rap music. He does a pretty damn good job of it.
Five songs I’m listening to this week:
Earl Sweatshirt | “Wool” (feat. Vince Staples)
jamie xx | “Loud Places” (feat. Romy)
Sufjan Stevens | “Should Have Known Better”
Shura | “2Shy”
FKA twigs | “Glass & Patron”