Arts and Entertainment

Some Rap Songs: Earl Sweatshirt Unchained

Earl Sweatshirt returns with “Some Rap Songs.”

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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By Camilla Cheng

Earl Sweatshirt is back. It’s been over three years since his last album, 2015’s “I Don’t Like [Expletive], I Don’t Go Outside.” Since then, Earl Sweatshirt—real name Thebe Kgositsile—has largely been out of the public spotlight. He’s rarely been seen or heard from, dipping into the public eye for an occasional interview or performance and then falling back out. But now, after an extended hiatus, he returns.

“Some Rap Songs” is dense. It is 15 tracks long, filled to the brim with intricate samples, memorable one-liners, and vocal chops that have become characteristic of Earl’s work. Though 22 minutes of music normally might not be enough to justify a full album release, Earl does more with the time than he has ever done before in any project, unpacking his own emotional baggage right in front of the listener, dropping intricate bars that layer over each other, and using samples that dip in and out of perception.

Earl’s third studio album serves as the soundtrack to his life. With his father—famous African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile—dying earlier the year and having openly struggled with depression and other mental health issues, “Some Rap Songs” is more than the reverb-soaked beats—it’s also a transcript of Earl’s battles against others, and more importantly, himself. “Azucar,” appearing a little bit past the album’s halfway mark, feels like victory. Earl raps of living through his struggles: “Hands on like a goalie with the puck, don't need any luck / See the ghost of where I was, lonesome as I was,” speaking deeply personally—commonplace on the record.

“Some Rap Songs” is a phenomenal rap album. Earl Sweatshirt delivers a record with flowing and precise production, bars delivered straight from the soul. Above all else, he delivers something new. Only slightly reminiscent of Madlib’s and MF DOOM’s “Madvillainy” (2004), “Some Rap Songs” is a breath of fresh air in an era of oversaturated rap gimmicks. The highlight track “Nowhere2go,” released as a single in the album run-up, features poignant lyrics, again alluding to Earl’s chronicled issues with depression: “I found a new way to cope / It ain't no slave in my soul / But I keep the memories close by.”

“Some Rap Songs” is one of the best rap albums of 2018, and making something so poignant, emotional, and intelligent with a runtime under half an hour speaks to Earl’s talent as a producer, rapper, and first and foremost, an artist.

Earl uses this album to break himself apart and slowly reinvent himself throughout the album, culminating in “Riot!,” a purely instrumental track that feels like a rebirth of sorts, the conclusion of a trip through the inner machinations of his psyche, and the sound of mental fulfillment. The Earl Sweatshirt in “Some Rap Songs” is at his strongest lyrically and instrumentally, eclipsing prior efforts. Though he often raps over beats that are chained down, Earl is as free as ever on “Some Rap Songs.”