Was This Album More Than Just “Some Rap Songs?”
By Edward Kasule
Earl Sweatshirt is easily one of the most mysterious personalities in hip-hop. He started off in Odd Future, the teenage rap group that helped usher in the new age of “Internet Rap.” They were a very new sound in hip-hop, mixing clever wordplay with extremely provocative lyrics. Lines like “Box logo, switchblade and cocaine / In my back pocket, take Jade on vacation / The hotel switch from Heartbreak to Bates quick / Rippin' out braids with bare hands amazes / The crowd, go crazy, hands raised, I'm laced with / Swag by the eighth in case you wanna taste it” from Sweatshirt’s first album perfectfully encapsulate the subject matter Odd Future loved. The group was often in the media for offending various groups of people, and the group was known for being aggressively obnoxious. But when Earl -- whose real name is Thebe Kgositsile -- was sent to Samoa, he came back a completely different person. He became more mature and focused. The experienced humbled him, and he found a sense of purpose in the world.
The last project Earl dropped, “I Don’t Like [Expletive], I Don’t Go Outside” was exactly like the title. This was the transition between what I call “halfway conscious” Earl and “fully conscious” Earl. He showed listeners a peek of what was to come on a few tracks. On tracks like “Grief,” “Inside,” and “DNA,” Sweatshirt translated the pain and discomfort he has experienced throughout his life into lyrics that his fans could digest and relate to.
“Some Rap Songs” is the evolution and maturation of Earl Sweatshirt as an artist. The basis of this project is dealing with depression, but there is so much more to unpack. The project approaches depression from an angle different from any that I have ever heard. Sweatshirt looks at depression like a critical analyst, picking apart its complicated history and causes. He does this in such a brief way that it takes many, many listens to fully understand the project. It is a perfect reflection of his life up to this point. In his 25 years, he has experienced a lot that not many people have experienced, but can still relate to many people.
Furthermore, Earl’s production style was unlike anything I had ever heard before. He mixed South African jazz with African American Jazz, creating an experience more than an album. As he has been delving more into his roots, he has found a strong connection to Africa, the black struggle, and family -- all of which are expressed on this project. In his latest release, “Some Rap Songs,” Earl Sweatshirt blends different genres of jazz, different depressive episodes in his life, and a different perspective to produce a masterpiece. And yes, it is more than just some rap songs.