Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist’s Album Was Worth The Wait

Since 2019, Earl Sweatshirt and Alchemist claimed a collaborative album existed under a fake name. Two years later, the production half of the duo confirmed its existence. “We hid a whole album on YouTube under a fake name and YouTube page. Fake album cover, song titles, the whole nine. Nobody found it yet,” he said, according to Rolling Stone‘s Andre Gee. Al had become a collaborator and big brother to various members of Odd Future since their initial run. After linking multiple times on his and Domo Genesis’ No Idols collaboration album in 2012, ALC produced the fittingly titled “Uncle Al” on Sweatshirt’s major label debut Doris on year later.

A decade after Doris, VOIR DIRE arrives—and it may (or may not) contain some of those songs that have been hiding in plain sight for years. The French term referring to “law” shows two artists who refuse to stay between the lines of convention. The promotion of the LP began with QR codes on Earl’s merchandise, taking curious scanners to a Gala Music site with ALC tweets. In August, during a Sweatshirt concert (where, according to The Fader, Alchemist appeared with his equipment—but did not perform), that same site offered GPS coordinates to a London Jazz Cafe. Cryptic references to the album title were also revealed in the complex rollout—where the album landed at Gala Music, a web3 platform that allowed registered users to stream the resulting VOIR DIRE for free. The initial 11 songs were also available as NFTs—capped at 1,000 units and available for purchase.

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At a time when Snoop Dogg has claimed he is taking Death Row to the MetaVerse and Black Star’s first album in a quarter-century eventually climbed over the paywall, Earl and Al’s album did not remain exclusive to Gala Music as an NFT. It was never the plan, as Earl vehemently stated to Rolling Stone—baling at “NFT albums.” Approximately a month later (October 6), the album featuring Vince Staples and MIKE is available on traditional digital streaming platforms with three additional songs. As Al explained, “I like having fun with everything I do. Some people say that we work hard and we put out a lot of music, but it’s because I make sure to entertain myself with it. And I always think like a fan first because I still love music. I love a lot of things. I’m a collector of things. I’m a fan. So I like to think from the perspective of, ‘How can we shake them up a little bit?'”

Several VOIR DIRE selections are now atop the Ambrosia For Heads playlist. This includes “Vin Skully,” which also arrived as a visual (embedded below) with the expansion. In that song, Earl raps with melancholy. “I don’t know what it is / I remember the ghost inside the crib / Hosin’ down the problem with gin and tonic / How to stay afloat in a bottomless pit / The trick is to stop fallin’ / Only option to start with a step, bet / Son of father and death / Big mama with the vision of sorrow, now I know why they wept.” As the MC looks at loss and coping mechanisms, Al creates a simple loop that enhances the reflections.

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Earl’s lyricism also shines on “27 Braids.” His raps are poetic, filled with detailed images and symbolism. “Made my bed so that’s where I’ma lay / My worried bones, my heavy head I carry home every day / My mama sayin’ that I’ll never be alone / Even though she gotta know that I know she dismayed / With the choices I made / The only way forward is unafraid and focused when I’m holdin’ these reins / Yell ‘thanks’ over my shoulder to my auntie Elaine / Twenty-seven braids fallin’ over my face / My head on straight, my mama closin’ the gate / And both of them sleep better when they know that I ate / I’m goin’ through changes that I couldn’t fathom / But growin’ pains lead to understanding / I’m no passenger on a plane, precious cargo in a cabin / My whole take on baggage just ain’t the same / Don’t fall for the fake magic / They came with the David Blaine patterns so we jab and weave.

“The Caliphate,” also included, is one of two Vince Staples collaborations on the Tan Cressida/ALC/Warner Bros. Records album. Earlier this year, Al released The Great Escape with Larry June and Faith Is A Rock with MIKE. He also offered a new edition of The Elephant Man’s Bones, a 2022 collaboration with Roc Marciano that was named among the best of last year by AFH.

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Earl Sweatshirt and Alchemist have announced an 11-stop tour for VOIR DIRE, launching in November. They will be joined by MIKE and Black Noi$e. The dates are as follows:

11/6 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox SoDo

11/7 – Portland, OR @ McMenamins Crystal Ballroom

11/9 – San Francisco, CA @ The Regency Ballroom

11/14 – Dallas, TX @ The Studio at the Factory

11/15 – Houston, TX @ The Ballroom at Warehouse Live

11/18 – Atlanta, GA @ Heaven at the Masquerade

11/20 – Washington, DC @ The Fillmore Silver Spring

11/21 – Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of Living Arts

11/22 – New York City, NY @ Brooklyn Steel

11/24 – Boston, MA @ Royale

11/27 – Detroit, MI @ Saint Andrew’s Hall

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Press image provided by Orienteer.