Review: Some Rap Songs – Earl Sweatshirt

Experimental, chaotic and deeply personal – Alex Thompson reviews the brief yet brilliant album from Odd Future affiliate Earl Sweatshirt

COLUMBIA RECORDS

SOME RAP SONGS – EARL SWEATSHIRT

After 3 years of radio silence, California rapper and Odd Future affiliate Earl Sweatshirt drops his latest project Some Rap Songs, a title alluding to a straight forward simplicity that couldn’t be a greater juxtaposition to the album itself.

In contrast to his more straightforward yet still ground-breaking earlier albums, Earl embraces more experimental production on this project, with the stuttering loops and washed out vocals on tracks such as ‘Nowhere2go’ or messily chopped sampling of ‘Shattered Dreams’. The beats are almost reminiscent of producers Madlib or J Dilla, with the cut up soul and guitar samples having the same jittery yet haunting quality.  This new style suits Earl well. Some Rap Songs is a radical departure from everything in his comfort zone, the typical Odd Future flows and rhymes are replaced by weird, off kilter and monotonous verses that seem totally unique yet gripping, setting him apart from so many rappers today. The whole album is built on a bed of hisses and pops, intentional vinyl crackles and rough edges that give it an unfinished quality and make it such a captivating listen. It’s murky and moody but captivating.

It’s also a fairly short project. It’s not the Kanye 7 track format, but it’s no accident that Migos Culture II is longer than every Earl Sweatshirt album combined. Earl seems to revel in brevity, packing meaning into every line, every syllable and creating a dense patchwork of lyrics interspersed with choppy drums that dominate the album.

Then there’s the lyrics themselves. You expect depth from Earl but Some Rap Songs comes across as a deeply personal album, the death of his father and uncle as well as the rapper’s struggle with depression being a presence that haunts the content of the album. Unlike his Odd Future cohorts, he doesn’t seem to revel in controversy and shock factor, instead crafting insular and emotional lyrics. At times it’s almost like stream of consciousness, with Earl rapping languidly over these loose but emotive instrumentals and spilling his heart out in multi-syllabic rhymes. Nowhere is the personal dimension of this album clearer than on ‘Playing Possum’, where the rapper combines spoken word poetry from his father with a speech made by his mother. It’s revealing, personal and utterly engaging.

Overall, Some Rap Songs is another incredible album from Earl Sweatshirt, an expertly crafted vehicle to discuss person topics over incredibly sparse yet somehow perfect beats. It’s personal, abstract and everything you’d expect from one of the most critically acclaimed rappers of our generation.

8/10