Earl Sweatshirt Is Hip-Hop's Most Interesting Rapper
"Aaand I'm back. Bye."
In February of 2012, the silence finally broke. A YouTube video -- a teasing clip of new Earl material -- demanded 50,000 followers on his Twitter account for more Earl. Only then would fans be treated to the full release. It took all of three hours. "Home" was released, a jazzy return triumphant with thick, molasses-like licks of seamless word magic. The track was a quick minute and a half, ending with a simple "aaand, I'm back. Bye." In that little taste, the artist showed maturity and growth, a fact bolstered by following features on tracks with Flying Lotus, Mac Miller, and other OF members.
"Been back a week and I already feel like calling it quits"
But it would still be another year before the release of Doris, Earl's second full-length release, and the hype built up heavy in the meanwhile. In the end, fans were treated to a 15-track journey through dark corners of a troubled creative mind. Though songs like "Woah" and "Sasquatch" offer moments of adolescent trouble-making à la Earl, the majority of the album explores themes of insecurity, the hardship of adjusting to sudden fame, and a struggle to match perceived professional success with personal backstepping. The lead single, "Chum," was a harrowing self-portrait that took Earl fans by surprise, offering a more intimate and vulnerable look at a young man thrust from mysterious darkness into an international spotlight. Onstage, Sweatshirt took on a self-deprecating character, often teasing crowds that they didn't want to hear his music and didn't really like him, a clear misread of packed houses for effect.
"I anticipate a loss of fans... I also anticipate gaining some."
Sweatshirt changed things up heavy between mixtapes, and given the years and life experience, it shouldn't have been shocking. While many old fans may have been disappointed, hip-hop giants from RZA to Pharrell to Eminem were fast to hop on the train. The latter just had Tyler and Earl open for his European tour. Is it coincidence that Lamar's famous kill-'em-all verse on "Control" names Tyler but not the unstoppable Sweatshirt?
Whether every mainstream rap fan recognizes the emerging talent, every skillful, progressive-minded rapper in the game has an eye glued on Earl's next move. Everything about him, from his use of jazzy beats to his personal honesty, his nasty wordplay, and his mind-warping, buttery delivery separate him from his peers.
His next album is reportedly in production, hyped by a new track debuted in NYC back in February. Now that he's had time to adjust, tour the world, and exorcise demons, what style and theses will Earl tackle next? Perhaps Saturday's show at Revolution will offer insight into the dark hailstorm that is Earl's eminent reign.
Earl Sweatshirt, with Lucas Vercetti. 7 p.m. Saturday, May 10, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $24 in advance and $26 day of show plus fees. Call 954-449-1025, or visit jointherevolution.net.
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.