The master of metaphorical writing, the poet within Los Angeles, the refugee of the concrete waves; Earl Sweatshirt is a cultural phenomenon. From the opening lines of his earliest work on Earl with distorted faces and violent rap lines that bordered on horrorcore. Then the sophomore and junior releases of Doris and I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside which quickly captivated young and old heads alike for its quick witted wordplay, vibrancy of production, and the storytelling elements of a young god.
Now, Earl Sweatshirt is a seasoned veteran who has come off a few world tours, seen the rivers and waterways of different homelands, and drawn influence not from the shadows of America, but the sunlight that shines off the ocean in a golden hour. Sweatshirt is more mature than his previous releases, stemming into something that feels more relatable to him and more everlasting.
If club hits and 808’s are your bread and butter, Some Rap Songs is definitely not going to please you. And it really does not have to either, Sweatshirt is a real man of his own adventure that takes very little but an MPC and some vintage samples to create a trans-continental journey that demands attention to detail as his writing schemes.
It was immediately apparent from the unreleased tracks that were floating around YouTube and Soundcloud that Earl Sweatshirt was a changed man since Doris. The willingness to experiment with sound and move progressively by reaching back into the past with these overarching samples of dusty records that have not seen the light since JFK was still around. It was these style of J Dilla, MF DOOM, and even his partner in crime Knxwledge that almost influences Some Rap Songs to touch the loops and make a positive reach into something that describes Sweatshirt as an entity.
The bars are still cold on Some Rap Songs, but here he is realistic and speaks from a heart that has seen some triumph and some pain. It is the similar range that has nods to his previous releases, but this is a brighter horizon into the abstract and more jazz-influenced styling’s that clasp the last bit of food hanging on the hook. Earl Sweatshirt is more often than not rhyming about self-preservation within the jungles of life. “My mood really swinging, I peruse like a native would do. What I’m thinking I should do for the sake of myself… See you shooting but your angles is trash, don’t play with us, I revisit the past” Earl rhymes on the track “Ontheway!” which features New York’s own Standing On The Corner.
On another cut “Azucar”, Sweatshirt describes “Please get ya alibi straight, you ain’t gotta lie. Shook tradition, did it my way, no sense in looking in the sky. Trace element meddle with minds” which then leads into “Eclipse” with little in means of a break. The fascinating thing about Some Rap Songs is it feels unfamiliar after each listen and continues to warp as if the record shifts and contorts in a million ways even after over multiple listens per day since its release.
The final track however is a closing instrumental that holds some substance behind it. The vinyl cracking is a last call to the monumental 15-track saga that holds 24-minutes. Some Rap Songs may have surprised Earl fans for not being the exact release of fast rhymes and cutthroat approaches. The imagery however, of the sinking sun while a more mature commander of music stares off into the sunset, dreads hanging, with a wide open smile feels better than the depressed and broken showcases we had before.
Without the first pages of the history of hip-hop, music would be without a major vocal outlet. Without those first initial jumps into the unknown water, the future would be entirely changed within the genres and confides of music. Flash to late 1990’s and early 2000’s where music, more specifically rap music has started to shift and change within its own market. Communities are starting to recognize hip-hop for its incredibly musical basis and background that would eventually become the largest genre in the world.
Stepping into 1999 where The Roots rush into the whirlwind of Things Fall Apart which was considered one of the major stepping-stones of the transition from underground to mainstream. From the beat selection to the guest musicians that make up the backing work of Things Fall Apart, there is a large range that comes from the keys to the vocalization. It is the collection of the records that feel the hiss of the vinyl that works in tandem. With one of the tracks that start “The Next Movement” where the splash of the cymbal opens up the incoming rap rivers that work so well to create a sudden influx of the classic motions.
“The Dalai Lama of the mic, the prime minister of thought, this directed to whoever in listening range” describes Black Thought over this all-star cast of features and intricacies. With the lyrical assault that creates the realness behind, it is somewhere between the memorability of hooks and the familiarity of becoming rap lines that generations can relate and work together on. From the Mos Def rhymes or the Grand Wizzards and Scott Storch production that frequently makes appearances.
One of the more interesting features is the pre-Roc-A-Fella Records Beanie Sigel that taps into the soon hardcore roots that would span a lifelong career. “Transform, from the norm, start to brainstorm. Yeah Malik B from The Roots, he ain’t gone. I took the wrong exit, the sign said Langhorne…” Sigel goes on to describe “Pivot on this concrete Earth until I rot, didn’t figure how to conquer it yet but still I plot, once again.” Through the works of The Roots, there is a real connection between the listener and the world that is created between the production and lyrics.
As The Roots start to finally wind down the action with the spoken word on “The Return To Innocence Lost” that takes the listener to the silence. That silence that becomes the last memento before breaking into the new millennium with the incoming Y2K craze. The golden era of rap would come to a last close and see a new dawn on the horizon.