Saturday, 24 August 2013

Earl Sweatshirt - Doris

I know very little about Samoa. I know how to spell it and from a quick Google search that it became independent from New Zealand in 1962. What I do know  however is that Thebe Kgositsile entered the country in 2010 exiled from the US by his mother (replace ‘exiled’ with ‘sent to a boys correction school’ for more accurate but arguably less dramatic results) and exited armed with the tools and experiences to become the most talented member of the LA Hip-Hop Collective Odd Future. Originally discovered by infamous cretin and rapper/producer/attention-seeker Tyler, the Creator through the ancient and lost form of communication known as Myspace, Earl quickly took to Odd Future’s profane and chaotic style with the release of his impressive but underdeveloped mixtape Earl. The aforementioned ‘exile’ occurred to Samoa, which was incidentally admitted to the United Nations in 1976 (I did some more Googling), and after a trifecta of years Earl’s risen from the ashes and presented us with an album as full of mystery and wordplay as it is sinister beats: Doris.

I want to get one thing straight before we divulge ourselves into this. Those looking for 2010’s OF Tapes will be bitterly disappointment, and I’m glad. Days of Tron Cat, Rella and other tracks about copious drug use, self-harming and rape are long-gone. Not that I resent records concerning these issues I just feel that after three years of Tyler self-indulging himself in controversy and ego  Doris makes for a pleasant change of pace.

This full-length reeks of insecurity and doubt with occurring themes of high-expectations, lost family members and mistakes of younger days. As one imagines the beats accompanying these tracks are not the likes of early 80’s dance-pop but rather dark and minimalist. The orchestral instrumentations on tracks like Burgundy or Chum are outstanding and present Earl as not only an incredibly insightful lyricist but a sterling producer as well; the missing element to his stellar but not hair-raising 2010 mixtape. But when it comes down to it Earl is a poet like his father before him. Tracks like Hive showcase him at his most lyrically persuasive and intricate spitting lines like “Desperate Testament trying to stay Jekyll-ish/ but most n***** Hyde and Brenda to stay pregnant” and in terms of beats this single packs a really menacing and uncomfortable hook reminiscent of Tyler’s Yonkers which makes sense considering both of these artists originating from similar backgrounds and influences.  My one main gripe with this track is the featuring verses from frequent Earl guest Vince Staples and Casey Veggies who’s inputs weren’t necessarily bad or took anything away from the song but were rather superseded quite exceptionally by Earl lyrically blowing them out of the water as it were.

Frank Ocean’s feature on Doris is a remarkable display of the Grammy award winner resting his vocal chords to trade verses with Earl. You can really hear the chill-wave influence on this track which was overtly present on Ocean’s wonderfully delicate and surreal Channel Orange LP. Vibes of lethargy and fatigue pour out of this song as Earl and Ocean seem to swap stories with such apathy and introversion of lost passions, foreseen darkness and Chris Brown altercations,; it’s music that makes you think, music that we need more of.

Doris is a great display of creative ingenuity in a time where the Hip-Hop state of affairs is at a stalemate of snapbacks, joint rolling and unfortunately Drake. Doris is not without it’s imperfections such as the boring slow-jam and narrow-minded Molasses and unnecessary instrumental 523 but I think this is the case and point. In a recent interview Earl says “I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that you can hear the progression” and  he’s hit the metaphorical nail with the invisibly accurate hammer on that one, Doris is ALL about progression.
I’ve since heard Earl Sweatshirt described as a one in a million rapper and I’d have to disagree, he’s more accurately a one in a 194,320 rapper which is coincidentally the population of Samoa, funny that.

1 comment: