Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Earl Sweatshirt resets our souls with ‘SICK!’

The Chicago based rapper has flipped the rules of rap upside down once again with fourth studio release, ‘SICK!’ 

Through maturity and soul searching, Thebe Kgositsile, also known as Earl Sweatshirt, has come a long way since his teenage tearaway days in Los Angeles rap collective Odd Future and has curated an undeniably recognisable and philosophical style for himself. The result?  An array of albums blended deliciously with impending doom and deeply personal reflections, married effortlessly with the continuously ruminating nature of his rhyming.

Interestingly, the accumulation of the ten tracks on this album were not the original blueprint for the rapper's new masterpiece. During the pandemic, the original tracks were lost and as a result we are left with the charismatic concoction of contemporary trap and light languishing lo-fi that is ‘SICK!’ 

Throughout the project, the rapper pays homage to his roots as he oscillates between horrorcore, homophone rhyme schemes and thick euphoric grooves layered over dramatic drum loops and delicately political lyricism. The refined nature of certain tracks on the album is undeniable, and listeners see a poignant development in narrative, tone and style from tracks such as ‘Old Friend’ and ‘Titanic’. These vastly contrast from his 2013 album ‘Doris’ with tracks such as ‘Molasses’ and ‘20 Wave Caps (feat. Domo Genesis.)’ However, there are narrative parallels with his 2018 album ‘Some Rap Songs’, with tracks such as ‘Cold Summers’ where he strips back language and exposes the unapologetically honest side of himself, touching on themes such as trauma and suicide. This deep dive into his dark side is evident in lyrics such as, “Muffle my pain and muzzle my brain up” and “See it through keep a noose hangin’ off of my neck.” 

Irrespective of constant changes in presentation, the quality and execution of the rappers rhyming is still just as impressive as ever and this album has found itself a new seat at the table with the likes of Armand Hammer, who contributes a straightforward indifference to the album, one that we see echoed throughout the duration of ‘SICK!’. 

Seductive synths and upbeat instrumentals often offer a more playful optimism to the project in tracks like ‘Lye’. With lyrics such as, ‘I’m workin’ on it/  It's worth the time/  Further down the line” listeners are led to believe that the rapper has in fact, picked his brain up off the pavement and brushed the dirt off his psyche. There may be some promise within this ideology, with a continued sense of hope reflected within ‘Old Friend’  when he sings, “I came out of the thicket smiling” and “Like A Man Home From War''. Similarly within ‘God Laughs”, he declares, “Booze Is A Fools Fragrance” and “Marching On A Quest For My Lost Halo, God”. 

Earl has clearly applied the pressure with producing this album and with help from the likes of Yung Guru and Black Noi$e, it becomes apparent why the overall composition of the tracks with their expansive fluctuation of styles blends so well together. Then again, just as you think you've deciphered the style of the album, in true Sweatshirt style he surprises you, adding elements of excitement and uncertainty that are hard to ignore. 

Ultimately this album offers us an insight into the direction Earl is heading in his personal life. Creatively, although staying true to himself and remaining unfalteringly unpredictable, he has presented fans with an offering that obtains the fine balance between being deeply profound while avoiding coming across as pretentious. Expertly crafted, it's safe to say we can't wait to see what else lies in store from the multi-talented enigma that is Earl Sweatshirt. 

Felicity Giles 


 Image: Earl Sweatshirt ‘Sick!’ Official Album cover 

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