Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside (Extended Review)

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Don’t rock with reading? We get that. Here’s a video review of Earl’s I Don’t Like Shit.

Odd Future is the darling Rap group of the Internet age. Their growth was explosive and fairly unheard of for the genre, at least for the time they came up. One of the main emcees of the group while they were at their peak was Earl Sweatshirt, a loud-mouthed kid who could seriously rap his ass off. His career started with “Earl”, an off-the-wall ridiculous song made from bars that were both wordy and macabre all set to a music video which featured him and his friends throwing a load of elicit substances into a blender, making a concoction that morbidly kills everybody. It had that level of shock that young kids go for when they want both rebellion and attention, but it was provocative nonetheless. A few months after this music video went viral among the young and alternative, Earl dropped a self-titled mixtape which earned a huge amount of recognition for the then 16-year-old. It’s certainly not the honed or meticulously-created project, but that’s what people latched onto. There were also some really authentically homegrown joints that ended up sounding cool as hell. There was the aforementioned title track, as well as “Luper”, “epaR”, and “Pigions” (don’t be mistaken, that’s how it’s spelt in the tracklisting) among a few others. The young artist was then sent away for a while, which thusly spawned the “FREE EARL” campaign. This was one of OF’s first major victories in music; the phrase successfully stoked the hype fire for this new, edgy Earl Sweatshirt kid until he returned at the age of 18. When he came back he immediately entered the life of a international rap star, which I only mention because the effects of this dislodging process can still be seen on the album in question: I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside.

Staying very in line with his contrarian personality, Earl seems to be rejecting the hype-dependence of his first project with I Don’t Like Shit. His debut album, Doris, which landed in 2013, was kind of in the middle between viral anticipation and attempting to release an album out of nowhere, but I’ll get into that project a bit more later. So, let’s talk about this album with its long ass title and why I think it’s pretty weak compared to Earl’s past work. Before I get too negative, though, Earl deserves some praise.

The rapper on I Don’t Like Shit is worlds past the rapper on Earl when it comes to his actual skill on the mic. Earl’s flow is sharp, his style is tried and true, and his lyricism is still solid — no one can ever take away Earl’s bars. He keeps progressing, which is great since I could have totally seen Earl turning into a one-trick pony who keeps releasing projects like Earl with better and better production. This is an apprehension that Earl has addressed very openly in the past. In a slightly painful interview with the Huffington Post, Earl said this about OF’s expedited rise to popularity: “we got famous off of our shit ideas … you’re first drafts ever, we got famous off of our’s. So people were judging us and basing us off of our fucking first shit ever.” The big names of Odd Future have proven themselves with impressive and multi-dimensional personal efforts since its start, with Tyler, the Creator’s Wolf and Earl’s Doris in 2013, as well as some earlier stuff, like Mellowhype’s YelloWhite and BlackenedWhite. Even after their respective realeases, each one of these rappers have been working against a very strong sigma that has been following them from since the beginning. So, maybe the distain of I Don’t Like Shit is understandable.

Earl’s progression has been taking him into darker and dingier corners of his mind and away from the oh-so provocative vulgarity. His first step away from this was his debut album, Doris, a solid project that had a fair share of stinkers that luckily didn’t ruin the project as a whole, at least for me. I’ll still go back and listen to the songs that stood out to me: “20 Wave Caps”, “Hive”, and “Centurion” to name a few. Two of those tracks featured verses by Vince Staples, an emcee who came up at the same time as Earl and has been featured on every one of his projects. Vince returns once again on I Don’t Like Shit, this time on the last track, “Wool”, delivering a strong, full-bodied verse.

I’m a huge Vince fan, but if you’ve been reading for a while (or follow me on Tumblr) you’ve probably gathered that. I’ve always associated him with something that Earl said in an “Inside the Beat” episode: “with Vince, if you don’t fucking really go in, like, you’re going to sound so stupid … I’ve seen it happen.” Earl doesn’t sound stupid on “Wool”, he shows up and drops a solid verse, but Vince shows him up antagonistically. And this is my main issue with the album, Earl is constantly being outshined. For features he chose rappers who either have very unique voices or flows that pack a lot of energy. Earl is so nonchalant and even-toned that his verses are generally falling by the wayside, or at least they aren’t the main attraction. I don’t think his casual flow is a fatal flaw by any means, he has made a lot of really great music in the past, but it certainly didn’t bode well for him here. The best Rap music is made by its hunger, emotion, and genuine drama. There are moments, just like on past projects, where he steps towards it. One of those moments is “Wool”, but I can’t help but think that Earl heard that verse and consciously stepped it up not to sound, as he said himself, stupid. “DNA” is another moment with a refreshing dose of sentiment that makes Earl’s rapping a lot more poignant sonically. That track has a feature, which, unlike “Wool”, complimented Earl’s flow and style well. So, maybe it wasn’t all bad, I just expected a bit more after Doris.

Here, before you commit to the entire I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside album, listen to the project’s eighth track, “Inside”. If you find Earl’s plight compelling and his sound engaging, you’ll most likely enjoy this album. Earl is a good rapper, I just know he can do better. At any rate, here’s an iTunes link so you can decide your opinion for yourself.

Personal highpoints:

“DNA” / “Wool”

Personal lowpoints:

“Mantra” / “Grief”

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Charlie Johns