There are those, including myself who would argue that hip-hop is in a pivotal time of its existence. Hip-hop’s definition is expanding and changing by exploring new sounds, blending with other genres (e.g. rock, goth), and developing new rhyme patterns. This push towards other new sounds in hip-hop have currently been fronted by the likes of Tech N9ne and Odd Future. Hailing from the latter of the two aforementioned is Earl Sweatshirt, the man who dropped his awaited Doris. Yes, Odd Future has been releasing a steady stream of material in the past year (e.g. Wolf and Channel Orange) but Doris is something special due to the fact that Earl is no longer a sixteen year old prodigy. By common sense, he is older and thus he should have more experiences and thus he should have much more to say.
Earl’s record joins the likes of other 2013 releases from rising hip-hop stars. Whether you’re listening to Joey Bada$$, Mac Miller, or J. Cole, you have to agree that the one quality the four have in common is the element of musical hunger. After a couple of years of hard work and honing his mental skills, Earl comes out incredibly hungry on this new record of his. Track after track expose the multifaceted rapper that Earl is starting to become. Tracks like “Burgundy” show off his never-before-heard fast rapping while “Hive” shows his lyrically dense verbiage that he’s well known for.
Another trait that Earl Sweatshirt is quite known for is his intimacy and candid nature when it comes to his lyrics, and this album just adds another level to his emotional Jenga tower. Previously heard tracks like “Chum” have exposed his viewpoints of sensitive topics such as growing up as a single-parent child, but the other unreleased tracks also delve into a introspection of his current situation and the mental baggage that he is starting to collect. As the album goes on, each track’s verses seem to get more and more dense and more and more muddy. It’s almost as if he’s dragging an emotional net that just clings on to every feeling he’s ever had and places them wittingly into every new line.
While it is readily apparent that the last couple of years were spent honing his lyrical skills, the music choices under his verbiage have also grown. In the hip-hop world recently, there has been a trend of making more and more complex beats, but Earl Sweatshirt seems to have gone the opposite direction. Each beat on this album is pared down to about four elements: kick, snare, bass, and piano. It’s choppy, it’s muddy, and it fits his muddy style. To my ears, it sounds like the hip-hop equivalent of sludge metal or shoe gaze. Relatively simple, but incredibly dense. But this also becomes one of the downfall of the album. Each track’s simple and choppy beat drags on like a monotonous lecturer and it’s quite difficult to sonically differentiate one track from another without careful listening. There were rumors that earl was going to do a collaboration with BadBadNotGood (which would have brought much more musicality to his sound); I’m afraid that hasn’t been shown on this record. I’m afraid if Earl continues this sound, it’s lack of dimensionality will make it implode within itself.
Another complaint that I’ve hard from Earl is his unconventional rhyme scheme. His rhyme scheme is full of double entendres, enjambment, and dropped rhymes. He took this style, gave it a few five-hour energies and then spit it out onto this record. Almost every other line either utilizes slant rhyme, internal rhyme, or doesn’t even rhyme at all. While I (and many others and perhaps Walt Whitman) approve/enjoy this style, it’s is not everyone’s cup of tea. Its cerebral nature surmounts to a record that forces you not to listen to it while partaking in other activities. This is a record only for listening. And listening only.
Overall, Doris is exactly what I wanted and wished to hear from Earl after these few years. Skewed beats under screwy lyrics keep pushing the envelope of hip-hop. Whether it will stand to be the most memorable of the best hip-hop album of this year will have to be determined later.
1) Pre (feat. SK La’ Flare)
2) Burgundy (feat. Vince Staples)
3) 20 Wave Caps (feat. Domo Genesis)
4) Sunday (feat. Frank Ocean)
5) Hive (feat. Vince Staples and Casey Veggies)
7) Sasquatch (feat. Tyler, The Creator)
8) Centurion (feat. Vince Staples)
10) Uncle Al
11) Guild (feat. Mac Miller)
12) Molasses (feat. RZA)
13) Whoa (feat. Tyler, The Creator)
15) Knight (feat. Domo Genesis)