Earl Sweatshirt finds peace with “Some Rap Songs”
Coming seemingly back out of the woodworks, Earl Sweatshirt delivers his third full-length LP, “Some Rap Songs,” featuring lo-fi sampling, experimental drum beats and chopped blues samples. With 15 tracks, each averaging about a minute and a half, the album runs a short 24 minutes, in a manner that almost resembles a nostalgic, grainy, VCR-styled montage scene of Sweatshirt’s family life. “Some Rap Songs” looks forward to the years ahead.
The unexpected project broke the 24-year-old’s two-year silence in music. In recent months, Sweatshirt teased vague tweets about his comeback and was featured on an interlude on Vince Staples’ latest full-length LP, “FM!.” “Some Rap Songs” is a follow-up release to his 2015 album, “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside,” where Sweatshirt reflects on his inner demons, channeling feelings of depression, isolation and anger over lo-fi, muddy and dark production.
“Some Rap Songs” is a shift from that, as it marks a gaze into the future for Sweatshirt and is a symbol of his return to the spotlight. The project seeks to move forward a matured Sweatshirt, a sharp contrast from his edgier and angst-filled bars from his earlier days with Odd Future and his “Earl” and “Doris” projects.
Sweatshirt tries to seek a sense of acceptance with this album, as he had put together a majority of the album in late 2016 with intentions to eventually show his father and mother the finished project. However, tragedy struck when his father, famous South African poet and activist Keorapetse Kgositsile, died in early 2018. The death of his father was followed by the passing of his uncle, legendary African jazz musician Hugh Masekela, putting a lot of existential and mental strain on the artist and prompting him to cancel the rest of his European tour.
“Yeah, it really fucked me up,” Sweatshirt stated in a personal interview with Vulture. “I did work with the intention of being able to come back literally this year, at the top of this year. I’d finally pledged, like, ‘I’m going home. I can do it. I can see this.’ And he died.”
The album, while mainly produced by Sweatshirt himself, is ripe with Madlib and J Dilla influenced production of ambient loops, jazz samples and stuttery lo-fi drums. It projects Sweatshirt’s aesthetic away from his Odd Future counterparts, establishing himself as an individual defined much more by his family.
The album opens with the tracks “Shutter Dreams,” “Red Water” and “Cold Summers,” all of which were produced by Sweatshirt himself. “Shutter dreams” starts off with an almost nostalgic, blues-styled instrumental with a layered gospel choir. Lyrically, the track is one of the many introspective ones found on “Some Rap Songs,” as Sweatshirt reflects on life events from his childhood and the years leading up to 2018.
“Cold Summers” features Sweatshirt discussing various topics in his life, from his depression and coping, to his fear of the unknown. The track starts off with him saying, “We roam tundras” right before the drums kick off and the keys start humming in the background.
The album featured two singles leading up to the release. “Nowhere2go,” produced by Booliemane and Ade Hakim, showcases a cobbled, glitchy track featuring an experimental and at times avante-garde sound of guitar chords and layered drum patterns over Sweatshirt’s triplet flows. “The Mint,” produced by Black Noi$e and featuring New York artist Navy Blue, is a downtempo blues-influenced track with old-school sounding piano keys. Here, Sweatshirt reflects on his absence from music in the last two years with the lines: “Two years I’ve been missin’, livin’ life, you was wildin’ everyday was trash.”
The album steadily wraps itself up after the 13th track, “Playing Possum,” where Sweatshirt’s parents are both listed as one of the few features on the project. “Playing Possum” is an interlude in the form of a whirr of emotional dialogue from both Sweatshirt’s mother, Cheryl Harris, a professor of law at UCLA, and his father. The interlude consists of Harris speaking about Sweatshirt, thanking him as a cultural worker in a keynote speech, interwoven with Kgositsile reciting his poem, “Anguish Longer Than Sorrow.”
“Some Rap Songs” closes with the smooth jazz track “Riot!” a track that was originally composed by his uncle, which Sweatshirt included as a tribute. In this album, Sweatshirt remembers his progenitors as he sets his eye to the horizon and intends to craft his legacy.