Album Review: Earl Sweatshirt – Doris [@earlxsweat]
Earl Sweatshirt is his alias.
Since OFWGKTA rose out of the depths of YouTube fame, to global popularity, Earl became an icon after the shock value of his “Earl” video left teens across the globe in awe, and their parents in disgust. While he spent years in a Samoan behavior camp for at-risk teens, “Free Earl” became the battle cry for Odd Future fans and supporters, all the while the superior lyricist was held against his will watching all of it unfold from afar. He knew, as we knew, that the world expected great things from the abandoned child of a Nobel-nominated South African Poet… Earl returns, now 19-years old, a rebellious teenager. Somewhat like the kid in the back of the class who curses the teacher under his breath for repeatedly calling on him because he knows all the answers, but still doesn’t feel like talking. Acting out; Earl is the class clown who may have a genius IQ. Yet, he is still a rebel, and he rebels against the mainstream expectations with Doris.
He rebels in a way that shows that he does care about his art, but reluctant to accept the fame and the attention he’s receiving. It was one of the first things a listener notices while hearing the album for the first time. Earl isn’t the first rapper to actually rap on his debut rap album. He creeps in the second half of the record simply saying “..I’m a problem to niggas..” which summarizes this whole album into perhaps the best #KendrickLamarResponse in 2013 in regards to lyricism and artistry. There are records where Earl spills his heart out, standing in front of the world bearing his soul to us about his fears, depression, emotional rollercoaster of dealing with the void of his father, and his issues with an unnamed significant other. And then there are records where Earl gives you some of the most grimy bars with such eloquent wordplay that you are unsure if you want to go rob someone or read ’48 Laws of Power’ while Mozart plays in the background.
He shows his genius without having to say it, or call out a bunch of rappers, or show his videos around the world on the side of buildings and landmarks. Earl structures his debut album like an underground rap mixtape. Track after track kinda just mesh together in overall dopeness, with the only criticisms landing around “523″ and “Uncle Al” which completely disrupt the flow and vibe that crested at the top of “Centurion”. A clear jut of confusion but then he bounces back and finishes the album with solidarity, a five-track volley featuring plenty of the previously leaked tracks such as “Guild” with Mac Miller & “Whoa” with Tyler, the Creator. Some may be disappointed with Doris, but those people were most likely expecting something grander like Kendrick’s good kid, m.A.A.d city to garnish mainstream acceptance and success. But Earl rebels and just spits bars at the mainstream like, “Fuck that steak dinner you expected, I’m serving you fried chicken and tacos from the back of my truck and I hope you like it.” Mind you, this is coming from a kid who just got back from a juvenile prison disguised as a “camp” and everyone wants him to drop an Illmatic already. Instead, Earl made the music that he wanted to make, no clear theme and direction sometimes, just music and his thoughts.