Album Review: “Some Rap Songs” by Earl Sweatshirt

Earl Sweatshirt, product of rap collective Odd Future, made an experimental splash in the hip-hop community with his new album, “Some Rap Songs.”

After several years of receiving comments begging for the release of new music, the mysterious and beloved Thebe Neruda Kgositsile (“Earl Sweatshirt”) finally delivered. From the hip-hop and lifestyle collective Odd Future — the former home of Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean — Sweatshirt is back with a 15-track album titled “Some Rap Songs.” The highly anticipated project comes in at a shocking 25 minutes, a length that has become a staple of Sweatshirt’s work as he continues to stress brevity.

Sweatshirt reigns from Los Angeles, California and is currently 24 years old. He has sat in the spotlight since the age of 16, when he dropped his initial project “Earl” and took the hip-hop community by storm. Working with themes of depression, achievement, and introspection, Sweatshirt has his own niche with a devout following in the rap community.

This new album is by far the most experimental piece of hip-hop to be released this year. There aren’t a lot of 808s, not many repetitive lines, no catchy choruses — this album is simply Sweatshirt’s world for the last three years, and it is beautiful. The production on the album is primarily conducted by Sweatshirt himself and features a plethora of strange beats you would not expect to have rap thrown over. Ranging from jazz-based circular beats to more experimental Tame Impala-esque beats that sometimes consume the lyrics, Sweatshirt continues to innovate in the field of hip-hop.

Prior to the official album release, Sweatshirt dropped two of its songs as singles, “Nowhere2go” and “The Mint,” featuring Navy Blue. After hearing them alongside the rest of the album’s work, one can further appreciate the pieces both individually and as a collective part of the whole project. “Nowhere2go” progresses in the same manner as the overall album does. The overproduced beat initially causes the track to be a bit much to take in, but after a few listens, it quickly becomes a main track off the album. Sweatshirt’s cadence on this track is admirable, as the underdelivered flow becomes hypnotic and leaves the audience hoping for more.

On its first listen-through, the album has a lot to digest. From start to finish, the 25 minutes of the album feel like too little yet too much — so much happens in each song. The opening track “Shattered Dreams” establishes the nature of the project right off the bat, as it makes use of a repetitive and ominous beat. From lyrics referencing the essence of living in a dream and not wanting to wake up to having others neglect to help him out of pain, Sweatshirt is unafraid and unapologetically displays his emotions to the world.

Another standout track of the project is the sixth song titled “Ontheway!” featuring Standing on the Corner, with a guitar-based beat nearly resembling that of “Jingle Bell Rock.” This track once again gives insight into the troubled mind of Sweatshirt, as he references his constant battles with depression and makes more remarks regarding his mother, which seems to be a common theme throughout the album.

Moving forward, on the 13th track of the album, “Playing Possum,” Sweatshirt incorporates a speech from his mother and a poetry reading from his father over a smooth beat. This was a highlight of the album due to the direct insight it provides to the personal life of Sweatshirt, which he discusses so often. With the recent passing of Sweatshirt’s father, this track can be seen as a sort of tribute to both of his parents and their overall importance in his life. Sweatshirt has been public about his troubled relationship with his father, even mentioning the feeling of sending his father to the grave with unresolved issues on the project’s heaviest track, “Peanut.”

Ultimately, the project ends with an instrumental track following a plucky guitar that whimsically concludes the album. The piece sounds as if it is a soundtrack playing over the credits of a film with a majestic sunset running its course in the background. It serves as a symbol of Sweatshirt finally leaving his art all on the table after years of fans longing for more music. At the end of the 25-minute album, Sweatshirt has unapologetically delivered his heart through the means he wished to use.

As the year comes to a close, Sweatshirt made sure to leave his mark on what is going to be remembered as a monumental year in hip-hop. His efforts to remain original by not caving into the waves of trap beats and repetitive lyrics storming modern music today are commendable. Instead, he continues to place his whole spirit into the music he creates. In its entirety, this is an album that improves with each listen. Whether it be through intricacies in the beats or realization of clever wordplay, Sweatshirt has finally satisfied his fans’ demands. Despite the underplayed title, “Some Rap Songs” is more than just that — this album is innovation, soul, and creative genius.

Grade: A
Release Date: November 30th, 2018

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