Earl Sweatshirt is a rapper and producer from Los Angeles, California. He’s best known as a member of the rap super group, Odd Future along with Tyler the Creator and Frank Ocean among others. While his fellow OF members have reached much success in recent years and stepped out from the shadow of the group, Sweatshirt has struck up more of an underground path to fame. After a few self-released mixtapes, he made his major label debut on Columbia in 2013 with Doris. The album was mildly successful, in fact more so than it’s 2015 follow up, I Don’t Like Sh*t, I Don’t Go Outside. The latter, however, became a massive cult hit, slowly building a small but dedicated fan base.
His flow is heavily inspired by his Odd Future counterparts, particularly Tyler the Creator, who’s early work is remarkably similar to that of Sweatshirt. The fanbase, though, was far more drawn to his lyricism, which is quite impressive. He writes with brutal cynicism and focusses heavily on dark topics. His storytelling is excellent and, especially on his second record, he has an excellent ability to paint a picture. After seeing the strange cover and title for Strange Rap Songs, I knew I was in for a unique experience, and Earl didn’t disappoint.
The first thing you’ll notice about this record is extremely short runtimes and long tracklist. The longest and perhaps best tracks the album are the opener, “Shattered Dreams,” and “The Mint,” each clocking in under three minutes. These actually feel like complete ideas, though they’re essentially just long verses, as Earl lets the beats shine a bit longer and the latter features a fantastic soundbite. The rest of the album is somewhat woven together.
Because of the quick changes, we’re given one fantastic beat after another. The closer, “Riot!” is completely instrumental and utilizes a catchy, well played horn passage near the end while tracks like “The Bends,” and “Veins,” are built around well cut vocal samples which are used to set tone as well as rhythm. Earl shows versatility around every turn as the music simply refuses to sit still for more than a moment.
His flow is also quite listenable. “December 24,” and “Cold Summers,” feature the kind of classic, Earl Sweatshirt flow we know and love, as do “Red Water,” and “Onmyway!” Here, he’s unrelenting and with the slight tinge of violence and intensity. On the other hand, tracks like “Nowhere2go,” and “Eclipse,” display a sleeper, more laid back form of the same sound.
Overall, the record shows a reckless disregard for tradition. “Loosie,” and “Azucar,” find Earl barely clinging to the beat of minimalistic instrumentation with a bizarre transition between the two. Furthermore, several tracks mix the beats louder than Earl’s vocals and his vocal constantly fades between vocal effects.
Not every risk pays off though. “Playing Possum,” is the only moment on this very short project which I would truly call boring as it is devoid of rapping and instead built around selections from speeches by two women over a relatively weak beat. “Peanut,” seems to never quite find its rhythmic footing, and though I have respect for the experimental nature, it ultimately misses wide of the mark.
In total, Some Rap Songs is a unique listening experience which really must be taken in in one sitting to be appreciated. When Earl stays in his wheelhouse he is quite effective, but the branching out yields a bit of a mixed bag of results.
Some Rap Songs will likely be adored by true fans, but offers little for the uninitiated.
HEAR SOME RAP SONGS: https://open.spotify.com/album/66at85wgO2pu5CccvqUF6i