On his newest “humble offering,” Sick! is 10 tracks that appear almost in the wake of a global and intermedial reset. It wasn’t overnight, but in the light of an ongoing pandemic with still no clear ending in sight or reach, Sweatshirt appears like this angel of both grief and intense communication.
His last record, Feet Of Clay dropped three years prior, with a deluxe in 2020 but resembled more of an EP based off the shorter run time that spanned 15 minutes. Now with Sick!, Sweatshirt has a runtime that is much closer to Some Rap Songs and resembled coherent speech and diction, but the tracks on the project are presented as mixes through an almost incoherent blend.
Opening with “Old Friend,” the beauty of Sick! immediately shows through the instrumentation that is primarily touched by The Alchemist and Black Noi$e. While other producers like Samiyam or Rob Chambers enter the ring, Black Noi$e especially is a mainstay on Sick! and forms some of the power behind Sweatshirt’s voice.
A prime example is on the single, “2010” which almost instantly had broken the repeat button. Black Noi$e is fantastic and coming off his latest project OBLIVION which dropped in 2020, has entangled this electronic bounce to Sweatshirt’s sound.
The diamond-like clicks and chimes that run are stunning and create a platform for Sweatshirt to illustrate profound lyricism. He describes, “Threw me loose change, look at what I made of it. When the mood change, I’mma poker-face ‘em, it’s a new day who got all the aces? Who be foldin’ late, who know when to play dead?”
As per relation to Sweatshirt’s lyrical style and adaptation, his projects and verses have become more drenched in narration and the idea of playing with words with maturity rather than his previous and earlier endeavors like Doris or some of even I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside.
This version of Sweatshirt dons his dreads, a new role of fatherhood under the belt, and this impossible-to-miss level of progression even from Feet Of Clay to Sick! is noticeable. Looking more in-depth at tracks like “Tabula Rasa” where Armand Hammer features on the track, both E L U C I D and billy woods are gorgeous additions under a rbchmbrs and Theravada production.
Both of their verses tag together and almost steal the show while Sweatshirt comes in like a closer to finish out the track. Making “Tabula Rasa” this soulful but intense piece, billy woods especially has some fantastic writing here.
He illustrates, “It’s hell up in Harlem, so meet me ‘cross 110th Street. If the tree’s a bargain, bars – that don’t really tempt me.” He continues on through the Billy Paul samples, “I’m from where every car foreign and we drive ‘em on empty (Zimbabwe). Bury Me in a borrowed suit, give my babies my rhyme books, but tell ‘em ‘do you.’”
Quickly, Sweatshirt does not sit long with Sick! and moves into “Titanic” where Na-Kel Smith features on some ad-libs with a glitchy and frantic bounce of a beat. The style switch on Sick! and especially on the final two tracks here is almost enough to spin the head.
“Titanic” is such a hybrid of these unreleased tracks that Sweatshirt would perform based on YouTube leaks where the 808 cracks and his vocals are more fit to be rapped along to instead of listened to.
His bars here fill lines like “Give it to you straight, no frills. What I think might pay the bills, spit on cam like Makaveli. Came home in the 2011, Pasadena, John calling me Relly.” To then jumping with Smith to fit bars that describe, “Get ghost like I need a killer, Get ghost like an apparition. Hometown hold me down like a rock, so you know how I gotta skip it.”
Thus making way for the personal favorite of the record, Sweatshirt has this magnificent way of ending his albums and in a similar fashion to Some Rap Songs, the final track becomes this beautiful eulogy and reminiscent piece on what was just given.
“Fire In The Hole” has two parts, the first being a drained instrumental where a gentle ballad-styled guitar strums into the ears as these powerful major chords strike against the keys. The percussion, while simple, has moments of old jazz standards where the snare snaps are muted, but present enough to breakthrough.
Sweatshirt becomes immensely personal not through his wording, but in the way that he delivers those words. Without listening to what he is saying through subject matter, Sweatshirt is bleeding through the words and striking that blood into these tablets.
He illustrates, “Take heed, we took an oath to the sword. The shield took a couple chinks but it never broke. I know what he mean, how I play it based on what I’m shown.” Furthermore, he continues through this heartbreak and pride, “I couldn’t toast a drink to demise, I heard the clink. Life could change in the blink of an eye, I’m wrinkling time.”
The second half of “Fire In The Hole” is this somber and almost sobering moment where only a piano plays to bring in the last seconds of Sick!. And while the record does not undo two-plus years of being locked inside, seeing a display from Sweatshirt is enough of a blessing to cherish that time outside once again.