Earl Sweatshirt’s New Album Spells DOOM For His Generation (Video)
Late in 2018, Earl Sweatshirt released his fourth album, simply-titled Some Rap Songs. The LP showcases Earl’s sharp wordplay and conversational delivery. Moreover, the 24-year-old also shows that he is evolving as a producer. He favors carefully-crafted loops instead of the kind of grabby production that can detract from the lyrics. In many ways, Earl continues to show that he is writing his own chapter while taking a page or two out of the MF DOOM playbook.
Both artists have addressed personal losses in their art. Between KMD’s Black Bastards and Operation Doomsday, DOOM lost his brother, Subroc. He dealt with the pain through reinvention, both as a writer and a producer. Years later, the music that the brass at KMD’s label seemed hesitant to release appeared to be wildly ahead of its time. This also may be true of Earl, a year after losing his father and reportedly on his way out from his deal.
In conjunction with the Tan Cressida/Columbia Records release, the double-threat born Thebe Kgositsile released an eight-minute film co-written and co-directed by Terence Nance and Naima Ramos-Chapman of HBO’s Random Acts Of Flyness. That visual work, Nowhere, Nobody complements the project, serving as both a visual companion and also a worthy entry point, given that six songs are featured. It features scenes self-narrated by the Los Angeles, California-based artist lyrical lever, intertwined with a brief biography of his late father, South African poet Bra Willie. Several songs of the album play against humble scenes engulfed with the kind of artistic confusion that only Earl Sweatshirt can deliver.
The opening sequence finds Sweatshirt enthusiastically coaching a youth basketball team. The video eerily floats through scenes of Thebe deconstructing art pieces. The album’s opening track, “Shattered Dreams,” serves as the soundtrack as still sculptures of the heads and torsos of Black women and men mirrored with their live counterparts are gently brushed of vines and wiped clear of debris by the son of the fallen poet.
The short film continues with Thebe resting still in a bath tub, after being wiped down by a woman. The video concludes with the scene switching to Earl delivering the album intro with captured shots of blood seeping through the ceiling. The power of Kgositsile’s lyrics rumble the room of the rapper in an alternate dimension, causing a picture of a young Thebe and his father to fall and shatter. After the recitation of “Shattered Dreams,” the short film comes to an end with a round of applause visualized by a scene of a white casket filled with sculptures of severed hands draped with the flag of South Africa, an inventive funeral march for the respected Keorapetse Kgositsile.
Although DOOM has never been one to get quite so deep with the visuals, the listening aesthetics are similar. These are both artists out of innovative groups early in their career. Each has been disenchanted with the label system and searched for the space to make Hip-Hop on their terms, without distractions or gimmicks.
Take “Nowhere2Go,” one of the songs featured. Earl’s word choices and contrasts are not unlike the Masked Villain. “Even when I hit a low / I still give thanks to the Most High / I can’t do favors no more / If you lame and you broke, and you waiting for co-sign / I take a plate to go / Bread I could break with bro / Noose on my chain is gold / Tell me how you been faking the whole time? / That’s a surveiller’s goal / These ni**as be playing for both sides.” The intricate rhyme pattern, compound bars, and effortless delivery complete the comparison. Some Rap Songs is filled with these illustrations. Earl Sweatshirt is an industry outcast, who channels pain, loss, and indifference into making some incredible Hip-Hop.
#BonusBeat: Earl Sweatshirt’s 2019 tour dates:
03-23 New Orleans, LA – BUKU Music + Art Project
03-25 Charlotte, NC – The Underground at the Fillmore Charlotte
03-26 Silver Spring, MD – The Fillmore Silver Spring
03-28 Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Soundstage
03-29 Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts
03-30 New York, NY – Irving Plaza
03-31 Providence, RI – Fête Music Hall
04-02 Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club
04-04 Montreal, Quebec – Corona Theatre
04-05 Toronto, Ontario – The Phoenix Concert Theatre
04-07 Detroit, MI – Saint Andrews Hall
04-09 Minneapolis, MN – Cabooze
04-10 Lawrence, KS – The Granada
04-11 Denver, CO – Cervantes Masterpiece
04-14 Seattle, WA – The Showbox
04-15 Vancouver, British Columbia – The Commodore Ballroom
04-16 Portland OR – Crystal Ballroom
04-18 Sacramento, CA – Ace of Spades
04-19 San Francisco, CA – Regency Ballroom
04-20 Santa Cruz, CA – The Catalyst
04-21 San Luis Obispo, CA – Fremont Theater
04-23 Pomona, CA – The Glass House
04-24 Los Angeles, CA – The Novo
04-26 Las Vegas, NV – Vinyl – Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas
04-27 San Diego, CA – SOMA
04-28 Phoenix, AZ – Club Red
05-01 Austin, TX – Emo’s
05-02 Dallas, TX – Canton Hall
05-04 Houston, TX – Warehouse Live
05-05 Birmingham, AL – Saturn
05-06 Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade
06-07 London, England – Meridian Water (Field Day Festival 2019)