Has there ever been a more unusual introduction to the music scene than the one Earl Sweatshirt has had over the last couple of years? Release an unbelievably good mixtape that you recorded at the age of 15. Disappear. Become the subject of a fucking New Yorker profile that focuses on your disappearance. Triumphantly return from Samoan exile at the age of 17. Immediately catapult to stardom. Meanwhile, you still haven't released a proper album, but it doesn't really matter. You're a classified prodigy. Your throwaway lines are more complex than most rappers' best.
This whole ride has just been such a weird ride that we, as a rap fans, have more or less totally followed online—save for those notable moments during the 2011 OFWG tour when the band would play "EARL" and Tyler would lead crowds in "Free Earl" chants.
But one thing I've been struck by since that return is this: Earl's recent tracks, when compared to the mixtape, have little underwhelming. The turns on "Super Rich Kids," Domo's "Daily News," "Between Friends"... Something's missing. Calling the verses lazy isn't fair, but they lacked that dangerous spark of "Earl."
Maybe he's meant to be a solo guy. "Chum" was introspective and kind of brilliant (“Feeling harder than Vince Carter’s knee cartilage is"), and today's new song "Woah" is, I think at least, the best thing he's released since he trekked across the Pacific. The lines are mind-bending—"The misadventures of a shit-talker / Pissed as Rick Ross’s fifth sip off his sixth lager"—and the beat can best be described as "vintage 2010."
"Doris," that proper solo album we've been waiting for for years, should be a statement record. I'm excited.