When people talk about the rap game, it’s easy to regurgitate the chart-topping names that most could recall. With the music industry in its current state, it’d be difficult to believe anyone “below the radar” exists. After all, for every Travis Scott there’s an MF DOOM, a J.I.D. for every Post Malone.
Earl Sweatshirt exemplifies this perfectly. An alumni of the now-defunct rap group Odd Future, both him and his releases tend to stay beneath the shadow cast by Tyler, the Creator’s now mainstream following.
While Odd Future was still around, each member had their own reputation: Tyler, the Creator as the wild recluse who spat ridiculous flows about Bill O’Reilly, Frank Ocean as the emotional yet capable singer/songwriter, and Earl Sweatshirt as the penman and rapper responsible for some of the best verses in their collaborations.
While he hasn’t reached performing-at-the-Grammys levels of success, his post-Odd Future record “I Don’t Like Sh*t, I Don’t Go Outside” is a clear technological and lyrical marvel. However, there is one aspect where it fails: it isn’t “Some Rap Songs.”
Originally intended to reconnect him with his absentee father, South African poet and civil rights activist Keorapetse Kgositsile, the album’s production is a marvelous reflection of Sweatshirt’s emotions: depression, complacency, and an everlasting anxiety enveloping him.
This record, similarly to Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed “DAMN,” tells the story of his life. As he grew up in a fatherless household, Earl relates his complacency with fame and evident lack of motivation to his childhood.
In adolescence and teenagerhood, his mood shifted from complacency to self-hatred and depression. The emersion of these feelings are explored in his first studio album, “Doris.”
Towards the end of the track listing, however, is when the record takes a noticeably heartbreaking turn. While the album was originally intended to reconnect Earl with Kgositsile, with “Playing Possum” being a surprise dedication including the voices of both of his parents, this hope fizzled out after his untimely death in early 2018.
Both songs on the remainder of the tracklist, “Peanut” and “Riot!,” were recorded as Earl grieved. “Peanut” acts as a visceral, gripping reality check dedicated to what could have been, while “Riot!” is a dedication to his father’s best friend Uncle Hugh, who died only weeks after.
“Some Rap Songs”’s experimental production, heart-wrenching emotion, and laboriously-crafted verses come together to form a lookbook into the life of one of hip-hop’s best.