And on the last day of November, the 2018 rap scene was put to shame by Earl Sweatshirt. “Some Rap Songs” is a dangerously over simplified title for Earl’s latest album as it turns out be a carefully calculated album disguised in a mask to look like a loose, free flowing piece of work.
Upon first listen, this might sound like a dismissible album that seems messy and jumbled but, this is the fundamental element that Earl uses to capture listeners and hold them down for the full ride and not just a single track. Each song serves as a puzzle piece to a larger image but, as the album continues it’s evident that the pieces to this circular narrative aren’t for the same puzzle. What you end up with is an abstract collage of tellings from Earl’s life.
Undeniably influenced by MF Doom and Madlib’s underground masterpiece Madvillian, “Some Rap Songs” is built off of altered samples and skits of vintage esque snippiest of music. The majority of the tracks seem loosely structured and just when it seems like a song might fall apart completely it’s either quickly ended or Earl picks up its pieces holding it together for just a bit longer.
Don’t be mistaken that the songs short run time’s equal to a lack of creativity on Earl’s part, in an interview with Vulture Earl stated, “It’s been made evident to me that I’ve become kind of obsessed with simplifying s***, which sometimes can lead to oversimplification.”
It’s this simplification in Earl’s writing and production that can build a complex overtone squashing larger ideas and meanings into such small packages.
If you’re looking for bangers, kickers or Earl to unleash a flourish of lyrics, this is not the album. “Some Rap Songs” is cohesive in the fact that every track houses a very laid-back jazz, neo-soul instrumental with Earl’s almost lazy lyrical delivery.
As “Some Rap Songs” progresses, Earl’s words become more interweaved and knot tighter and tighter. On “Eclipse” in a particularly MF Doom style delivery, Earl raps, “Say goodbye to my openness, total eclipse/ Of my shine that I’ve grown to miss when holding s*** in/ Open my lids, my eyes said my soul is amiss.”
As Earl’s album draws closer to its end, one of the most creative and dark rap songs of the year emerges in the track “Peanut.” Here Earl raps over almost nothing but white noise as his broken rapping is glitched and slowed to such a slow delivery that hopelessness, depression and distress are audibly brought to existence. And for good reason, the last two songs of “Some Rap Songs” were recorded after the death of Earl’s father. “Peanut” is the child of grief and mourning.
The last song of Earl’s album “Riot!” is purely instrumental, sampled from a Hugh Masekela song by the same name “Riot,” it’s a stark contrast to “Peanut” as horns, drums, guitars bring life and color back into the last few minutes of “Some Rap Songs.” It’s clear that Earl felt great sadness for his father but found something bright to cling to as many who suffer the loss of a loved one often have to do.
With tracks hardly ever exceeding more than two minutes it’s evident that the grandeur of Earl’s past works has been left in the dust. “Some Rap Songs” is one of 2018’s more raw and organic rap albums yet, it’s simplicity might seemingly be overshadowed by larger than life works of Travis Scott and Drake but it’s the albums effortless flow and purity that will surely garner Earl’s “Some Rap Songs” a spot on the fast approaching “Best Albums of the Year” lists.
Colton Newman is the photo editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Coltonperson.