Earl Sweatshirt in 2013 was beginning to gain more traction from the Odd Future craze. In his absence, his crew members were rising to unmeasurable amounts of hype and fame. Pink socks, donuts on everything, and goofy white kids who finally found their niche began this entryway into the likes of what become teenage golden years.
But this style of rhyming was different, Earl Sweatshirt became the introspective and cracked mirror of production that was stoned, broken, and ultimately human. He could combine the love for dusty records in dollar bins with the fresh and crisp snap of a K9 through rap. It was the first real step as his studio debut through Doris where Sweatshirt could balance his youth and loss of innocence that was apparent even though he established double entendres with ease. It was less of an open hand slap and more of a closed fist punch that teetered between his first mixtape Earl, and the future that would see masterpieces of relation to I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside and even his newest record Some Rap Songs.
In any case of the word, Earl Sweatshirt became this enigma with thousands of hidden stories that somehow people found relatable even on entirely different sides of the world. Doris is that first dive into the water that is not so much a rebirth but is instead the death of one style that adapts to another. Sweatshirt stands behind this coherent story with himself, and sometimes his conscious as the narrator. He begins on the first track “Pre” with a feature, he does not make an appearance until near the 1:50 mark where he finally douses the listener in gas and strikes a match.
Each performance on Doris is volatile and has some sense of dread that bleeds closer and closer to the end of the record. With the later track “Centurion” which features Vince Staples, Sweatshirt is a frantic mess with a whirlwind of paranoid rhymes where he explains, “Eating nothing but hard punches to that abdominal, closed-fist chronicles, sold sniff momma knew. Baggies laying round, peanut shells at a carnival, stomping clowns welcoming pussy niggas to the romper room.” But somehow amongst the ashes of his torment, Sweatshirt is this floating character that people love to watch.
On the track “523” Sweatshirt is coherent but somehow caught between this dream sequence. It is as if he has his entire sound mapped out but also experiments to create these flashes in the pan of raw, unadulterated experiences where the percussion is a crashing and mesmerizing hypnosis piece. The synths that capsulize “523” are simply breathtaking and the room hits vertigo before falling back into the realm of reality.
Nearly six years later, nothing is the same. As the features on Doris age as fine wine and the production is similar, Sweatshirt was a vocal renaissance man who could tightrope between both aggression and depression. With one hand hanging on a gun and the other on a pen.