Earl Sweatshirt Explains How Being “Woke” Isn’t Enough To Confront The Issues (Video)
A few days before the conclusion of 2019, MC/producer Earl Sweatshirt scheduled a public talk at the Museum Of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, California, with his mother, Cheryl Harris, a law professor at the University of California. The talk was called “In/between us: a conversation on art, music, and life.” The idea was to bridge the gap between fans and the closest person to Earl, after the two were introduced in the public light as feuding kin.
“It was already a public thing, so it’s got to wrap up as a public thing,” Earl told The People’s Party With Talib Kweli co-host, Jasmin Leigh, at a short Q&A session before he began the 45-minute public conversation with his mother. The entire talk, with Earl and Leigh, and Earl with his mother, has been uploaded for all to watch and hear. Harris and Sweatshirt take time to discuss social media, creating art, how proud Harris is of her son, and Earl’s upbringing with comedy records.
Perhaps most interesting, though, is Earl Sweatshirt’s thoughts on “woke culture,” which was spoken before his conversation with his mom started, with Jasmin Leigh. Leigh mentions to Earl an old story he recalled for NPR back in 2015 about first understanding what being woke was, and how it was a concept introduced to him by his mother listening to Erykah Badu in the car. When Leigh asks what Earl’s thoughts were on being woke today [8:40], he enthusiastically replies: “I think ‘woke’ is dangerous now. I think that as an identity is hella saturated now. I think it was useful, I think it was cool…”
After thinking a bit about the topic, he continues. “I think that ‘woke’ is weird as an identity, but I also don’t wanna be Mr…’oh, I’ve been educated for so long,’ because that’s annoying as hell. …I hope that people get to a point where we can stop being so stingy with resources, whether it be information or whatever, you gotta share that. Nobody gives a f*ck, bro. Nobody cares if you’ve retained all this knowledge that you [use at convenient times]. What’s its utility if it’s not helping someone? On the one hand, it is its own language and its own arena. It is and was and will continue to be its own incredible resource. But a lot of the times, it’s like, ‘well, who are you talking to?’ Like… I’m trying to break down Blackness into morsels so that white people can understand me, but that’s not really the goal. But that’s some American sh*t though. We as Black Americans feel like we need to justify our humanity, our existence, our culture, our everything—you wanna intellectualize it, but it’s like, bro, you don’t need to speak about it. Like, we understand this. We don’t need to [have a word for it].”
Earl continued, “Like, people gotta stop being so embarrassed. Like, alright, you used to straighten your hair, you used to listen to My Chemical Romance, the Trayvon Martin video came out, okay, you put on a dashiki. And you know what? That’s okay. I’m just saying you could fall back and stop trying to lead the conversation on things because that’s the issue.” He adds, “Some people adopted it as an aesthetic, which can be harmful and detracting. But I think that ultimately, that can’t be all bad. If the cool thing to do is be socially aware and politically aware.” Earl continues, “It can bring in mad imposters. But I don’t think it’s all bad. Like I said five times: in 2020, share your resources.”
Earl Sweatshirt was very passionate about describing the issues he has with woke culture, and how its own saturation has caused damage to its name.
Earl Sweatshirt’s latest EP, Feet Of Clay, was released late last year, and features production by Alchemist and a guest appearance by rappers Mach-Hommy and Mavi.
#BonusBeat: The full video: