On March 16, Odd Future fans and hip-hop heads alike were greeted with an alarmingly pleasant surprise. iTunes released a pre-order, track listing, and release date for Earl Sweatshirt’s newest album, brilliantly titled “I Don’t like S***, I Don’t Go Outside.” Alongside the pre-order was also a single titled “Grief,” accompanied by a music video the day after. While fans were beyond excited for a completely un-marketed, un-hyped release of an Earl album post-Doris (his debut album), others weren’t as pleased, specifically Earl Sweatshirt himself.
With a series of all-caps, angry tweets, Earl let people know his anger for what his record label, Columbia Records, had done. The original intention was to release the music video for “Grief” on the March 16 and not give any details about the release date, song titles, or features on the album. However, Columbia did the exact opposite. Earl discussed his anger towards them to NPR Music in an interview, stating “…I was so mad cause it was like — especially because I feel like this is my first album. This is the first thing that I’ve said that I fully stand behind, like the good and the bad of it. I’ve never been behind myself this much. So for them to not treat it as importantly as I was treating it was just like — I couldn’t help but to feel a little disrespected, you know?”
While it’s completely understandable for Earl to have a lot of resentment towards his record label, this album is a fantastic representation of everything Mr. Sweatshirt is made of, and it may be his best work to date. If you’ve been a fan of Odd Future (Also known as “OFWGKTA”), then you’re aware of all of the troubles and hype that went into his first full release, Doris. Earl Sweatshirt was 16 when he first dropped his mixtape EARL, which shook rap to its core with his brilliant yet fresh flow, the scare tactic bars of rape and murder, and the minimal but dark production coming from his “big brother,” Tyler, the Creator. With the exception of a few features, after the release of this, Earl happened to just disappear. No one in Odd Future really discussed what had happened to him and rumors everywhere were stirring up. “He’s in prison!” “His mom made him stop rapping!” etc. While these are both somewhat true, the real truth is he was sent to a boarding school in Samoa because his mom disapproved of his rapping. While he was there he encountered people who actually had suffered from rape and received an eye-opening experience of life outside of Los Angeles. After he came back, Earl dropped the corny “I’m so dark and evil 666”-shtick and came into himself with the release of Doris. While the hype conjured up by Odd Future diehards was completely unattainable, most fans were extremely impressed with this album, with brilliant songs like “Hive” featuring Vince Staples & Casey Veggies, “Burgundy” featuring Vince Staples, and “Sunday” featuring Frank Ocean.
I was surprised to read how Earl considers I Don’t Like S***… to be his “first actual album,” considering I find Doris to be a breath-taking switch up from the spew of mediocre rap that came out in 2013. After several listens, it’s understandable why he’s so proud of I Don’t like S***, though. This album is almost entirely produced by Earl himself, who goes under the alias “randomblackdude” when he produces. The production is so minimal for most of the album, consisting of haunting synth notes and simple yet clean, raw drum and symbol hits, allowing the listener to get a front row seat to everything Earl has to say. While a lot of the Odd Future Collective remains in obscurity, and in constant threat of parodying themselves, Earl manages to step out of the darkness and stand out.
The album is a clean and simple 10 songs, and roughly 30 minutes. It seems apparent that Earl had been very picky and specific with what made it on this album and what didn’t. Another surprise was how there are zero Odd Future features on here, with the exception of Na’kel, who mainly skated and hung out with Odd Future. The other three features, Da$h, Wiki (of Ratking) and Vince Staples, are brilliantly placed and perfectly fit the aesthetic of this album. Earl is managing to make something big out of nearly nothing.
The album opens with “Huey,” an organ-riddled track where Earl reflects on how fans and critics misunderstand and misinterpret him. “Critics pretend to get it and b***** just don’t f*** with him” is a line so apparent that it still manages to brilliantly represent the resentment he has towards the girls who think he’s ‘too weird’ and a lot of critics who are try-hards that will praise Earl for his genius even if he spent 10 minutes vomiting into a mic. The album continues trotting along at a lazily self-aware pace, with some of the best atmospheric and dark instrumentals I’ve heard in a long time. “Mantra” comes next and discusses his past relationships and experiences with fame. The song is appropriately titled “Mantra” because it’s meant to reiterate the last line of “Huey.” Earl says, “and I gotta jot it quick cause I can’t focus so well,” which is a feeling he must experience quite often. I Don’t Like S*** lets you truly feel all of the anger and issues that Earl has suffered from as of late, and he manages to paint a picture so astonishing that by the time the album ends, you find yourself throwing it on repeat just to hear it again. This time, this isn’t a depressed Earl or even an angry Earl. It’s a confident and honest Earl, who has perfected his flow from going in between Eminem-esque quick and witty flows, to slow and meticulous MF Doom flows. On this album, it is just a straight up Earl-flow, and there is not one thing wrong with it.
Everything Earl has to spit on this album is pretty heavy to an extent, but he doesn’t need any pity. He just wants you to listen and truly understand what he has to say. Trust me, what he has to say is good. “Inside” is an astonishing look into how Earl feels that he truly missed out on when the Odd Future collective blew up, as he was in Samoa. I never knew that Earl had negative feelings in regards to this, so hearing his clever wordplay and breaking it down to what he’s really saying left me in awe. The album closer, “Wool,” featuring Vince Staples, is probably my favorite song off this album. Long-time friends and collaborators, both are beginning to step out of their shell and gain the confidence and popularity that they deserve. While together they’ve killed it in the past on tracks like “Centurion” and “Hive.” Something about “Wool” brings both of them to their full potential. In one sense, this song is about nothing. There’s no real theme to it, but they manage to paint a picture of everything they are, could be, and should be, and it leaves me smirking with the insane wordplay each time I hear it.
I personally recommend every single one of the songs on this album. Lyrically, each one is border-lining, if not touching, brilliance. Clever, quick-witted, snarky, and straight up – Earl’s flow will make you feel like you just woke up in a down and out apartment next to empty Colt 45s and gutted roaches. The production may turn some new listeners off, but I have a feeling if you come into the album open-minded, you will realize that every part of this album fits the aesthetic that Earl’s been trying to perfect since his release of EARL. What once was a try-hard attempt to be dark and evil on his first mixtape turned into a sadder, more introspective Earl on Doris, and now is a confident, honest and brooding beast, blowing smoke in the faces of anyone who tries to stop him. I Don’t like S***, I Don’t Go Outside is available on iTunes.
Zach Ritz is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at ZR812833@wcupa.edu.