Earl Sweatshirt is one of the standout artists from the former Odd Future collective and one of my favorite rappers. Along with his peers Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean, Earl is an artist that I grew up with, who matured as I matured. His debut mixtape Earl was released in 2010 when he was 16 years old and characterized him as a crude teenager who, in spite of his often cringey subject matter, undoubtedly had tons of potential.
Like the rest of us, Earl has grown a lot in the last ten years. I have curated a playlist that displays his growth, starting from 2013’s Doris to 2018’s Some Rap Songs. One of the highlights is “Chum”, the lead single off of Doris and Earl’s most popular song. From his relationship with his estranged father to his stay in a Samoan boarding school for at-risk youth, this track dives into his headspace prior to the release of Doris. Another highlight from Doris is Hive featuring Vince Staples and Casey Veggies. Earl’s stone cold delivery, combined with a grimey bass line and a killer Vince Staples verse make it one of my favorite rap songs ever.
2015 saw Earl at perhaps his most reclusive with his album I Don’t Like S***, I Don’t Go Outside, an album rife with themes of anxiety and avoidance. The cloud rap-inspired single “Grief” exemplifies the paranoia he experienced during the recording of this album. The song “AM // Radio” featuring Wiki, with its laid back sample loop, takes a less abrasive approach to similar themes.
In 2018, Earl Sweatshirt released Some Rap Songs, which I consider to be his best work. It is the result of almost ten years of artistic growth, and when compared to his early work it really shows. Everything from his production sensibilities to lyrical content have gotten better with age.
One of my favorite things about Earl is his willingness to be honest with his fans. He explores corners of his psyche that can be downright painful to face, but does it all the same – all while sharing his findings with the world.
– DJ Mango