The big homie Bayo pulled up and we listened to Earl Sweatshirt’s long awaited 25 minute opus. Here are his thoughts on the album, the artist, and the experience of growing up at the same time as a the generational talent that is Earl. Thank you for the write up Bayo, shoutout DXCEGANG.
Bayo Fasipe enjoys Jewish humor, rap music and basketball. He’s very large, occasionally ashy and an incredibly enjoyable person to be around. All of us would like to wish him a very happy birthday as well. Find him on the internet in these specific places, congratulate him on one less year of life, and argue with him about his opinions.
After promising some new chunes not to long ago, Earl Sweatshirt delivered Some Rap Songs Thursday, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. Actually, I don’t know when it dropped; I was at a Kenny Beats concert at the time of release. It was the first concert I’ve ever been to, and it was great, shoutout to: Blyde for the ticket, Chunghwa and Anupriya for helping me stay hydrated, and Bobby for the bacon, egg and cheese. Also Kenny Beats, Key!, Zack Fox, Rico Nasty, the white man in the crowd with the silk blue durag, Cozy Boys, 03 Greedo, Shoreline Mafia, and everyone else he brought out. For the record, we’ll say it came out some time between A$AP Lou finishing his first bottle of Henny and Key’s set, most likely while me and Bob were moshing with Zack Fox. In spite of my enjoyment of that concert, the fact that the album had been released was in the back of my mind, simply because I had been waiting for so long. It defied my expectations on the first listen, and it gets better every listen. Some Rap Songs has been 3 years in the making, and he’s popped out again to put out one of the best releases of the year.
Earl Sweatshirt has grown so much. Earl’s been a master of lyricism since Obama’s first term; he uses every word to make a vivid image. He was on earlier releases like Earl (“Y’all niggas ain’t clean as my team is mean as/ Hitting amputees in the knees, Jesus”) and Doris (“small fry got ‘em seasons salty, weeded/ coughing ease up off me end is breathing easy as bulimics barfing”), but he’s been much more parsimonious recently. On SRS, some, if not most of the raps, are delivered as scattered bars and phrases. His verses sound like a quilt of musings that he’s stitched together to paint a picture of his mind. That picture produces a heavy feeling; he’s had to bury his father, Keorapetse Kgositsile, his uncle, Hugh Masekela, and brother/muse Mac Miller all in 2018 (may they rest in peace and freedom). His voice on “The Bends” is world weary, and it shows in the advice he doles out (Peace to my mans, gotta go be with your fam more), (Before a jawn, young god get the cash run/ Hard hung heads might starve in the end), (tell my queens keep mace). He’s matured, but only the hardest way.
Not all growth is painful, though–he’s taken some time off for himself, and while he’s been away from the public and his fans (“It’s been a minute since I’ve heard applause”), it’s been much needed to get his mind right (“lot of blood to let, peace to make fuck a check”). In that time, he’s done a lot of reflecting; when he addresses his father, it’s with a lot of tenderness, as on “The Bends” (Got memories of your face/photo on the mantle/it’s real when you seal up letters with wax) or pride on “Azucar” (Mama said she used to see my father in me/ Said I was not offended). For the black women in his life, he feels protective (Tell my queens keep mace) and grateful (Not a black woman I can’t thank). That’s real, because there isn’t a black man alive who doesn’t owe an accomplishment to a black woman’s efforts, and we (myself included) should acknowledge it and protect them. For his mother, he’s got only thanks and love, from “Ontheway!” (Momma say don’t play with them scabs/ It’s safe to say I see the reason I’m bleeding out) to “Veins” (When it’s time to put my burnt body in a case/Tell my momma I said thank you). These bars are a stark contrast to Earl’s bars on the same subjects as recently on his last few releases, whether we saw him hanging up on his mother in “Solace”, telling us his father wasn’t his friend on “Grown Ups”, or mistrusting and mistreating the woman in his life on “Mantra”. It seems he’s finally faced his past, and he sounds better for it. He wasn’t lying when he said, “I only get better with time”.
Earl rides these bars on a sea of gritty loops and warped sounds. It sounds like the backwood you put out to smoke, even though it’s your last one in the pack, everyone barely has enough to match, and y’all said the last one was the last one. Some Rap Songs realizes a distinct sound he’s been moving to for since Doris. Earl handles almost all of it himself, and 6 others have production credits. Together, they eulogize every musician who has ever chopped up a sample. “Azucar” and “The Bends” would sound right at home on a Tutenkhamen deluxe, and the syncopated half-second snatches on opener “Shattered Dreams” and “Red Waters” are straight from the Donuts cookbook. The Black Dynamite sample on “The Mint” channels Earl’s inner Madvilliainy. Just like his bars, the production is a jumble of thoughts, but they transmit and flow very clearly. Each track transitions clearly and the album itself loops seamlessly. This album was meant for some playback: I know I’ve contributed 10 streams writing this. Earl uses a lot of the sounds themselves to tell a story–on Playing Possum, he alternates parts of a speech by his mother and a poetry reading by his father, and the message is clear–he is his parents’ child, poetry, seclusion, insight, and all, and he’s proud of the fact.
The album closes with a two-minute loop of the intro for “Riot” by Hugh Masekela. While he only gives two words to “Uncle Hugh” in the previous 21 minutes, he says everything he needs to on “Riot!”. While the previous song wheezes and groans in a low, minor key as Earl raps about loss and grief, “Riot!” is a happy memory; we get to see one of the best musicians to come out the motherland do his thing unbothered; it’s a jarringly peaceful way to choose to end the album after spending the last 21 minutes being in your bag. But it’s not that surprising when you think about it–the various samples are all cut from black musicians that survived by cutting out spaces to find happiness. It’s a hard-fought peace, but I am thankful that Earl has emerged to tell us about how he got it. It’s the rare album that not only teaches you something but inspires you to apply some of it to your own life. I think I’m going to bump this again while I do some growing of my own.
Recommended tracks: The whole album. As many times as possible.
Rating: Feels like being in your bag and putting on a very heavy episode of the Boondocks Rating: 9/10