The last time Earl Sweatshirt was in the spotlight—for his much-hyped mixtape Earl—he dropped everything and disappeared to Samoa. Soon, rumours, mainly fueled by colleague and collaborator Tyler the Creator’s more-than-half-serious “Free Earl” campaign, circulated that he was forced into a boarding school by his mother. Now he is again a product and a victim of hype; on his latest album, Doris, he airs his grievances and talent in equal measure.
When Earl (née Thebe Neruda Kgositsile) returned to America, he cleared the air: no, he wasn’t forced to go to Samoa; rather, he went to finish high school and deal with his drug addictions and general delinquency. Although the album is named after his late grandmother, Earl focuses much more on his own life than Doris’ death, besides a quick lament in track two, ‘Burgundy.’ Anxieties and anecdotes spill into monotone bars, which are rapped over simple bass melodies mostly produced by Earl himself.
Earl’s deadpan works as a nice contrast to his serious topics and complex wordplay. His blasé delivery forces the listener to pay close attention to off-hand puns and clever metaphors, which take a second to register, especially without any pronounced intonation. Doris produces line after line of feelings that follow close behind one another in one long string, as the tracks rarely pause for a hook. Still, with the excellent beats by hip-hop producers RZA and Samiyam, Earl’s minimalist production is sonically dull. Right now, Earl stands as an MC with potential, but when you’re widely regarded as the best rapper in your group, maybe it’s time to break off and branch out.