Earl Sweatshirt – Doris Album Review

Rating: It’s about time. The Odd Future associate Earl Sweatshirt is a 19-year old rapper, finally releasing his first full-length...

Dylan Tracy

Contributor

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Rating: ★★★★☆

It’s about time. The Odd Future associate Earl Sweatshirt is a 19-year old rapper, finally releasing his first full-length album. Officially releasing your first album is a big deal, just ask your best friend, Tyler. Three years after his debut mixtape, Earl’s raps have radically shifted in subject matter, from violence and rape to marijuana and ambition. Doris does a lot of sidestepping and ridiculousness, but what Odd Future-affiliated album is going to be all business? At the end of the day, Earl Sweatshirt doesn’t have to worry about his first album any longer.

If you’re not familiar with Earl Sweatshirt, this is the best place to start. Earl Sweatshirt is probably one of the most unique rappers out there – blending wordy raps with a delivery style that cannot be matched or replicated. Example:

“With stress ni**as could flex metal with, peddle to rake pennies in
Desolate testaments trying to stay Jekyll-ish
But most ni**as Hyde, and Brenda just stay pregnant”

His fluid, murky flow is something to behold at certain points all throughout this album, showcasing his unique (I can’t stray away from this word – Earl is too unique) intensity in each track. On this album, Earl utilizes his raps and spits double, or even triple, entendres next to complex metaphors – which are probably only understood by a handful of people. Earl’s first album should be surprising to some. It’s more polished than veteran albums – certainly more polished than Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail.

There’s a plethora of styles on this album – just look at the first four tracks. ‘Pre’ is an synthy intro with two verses and no hooks. ‘Burgundy’ is a personal retelling of Earl’s mind coming to terms with who he is since he’s come home, (Earl went to a Samoan boarding school until he turned 18) and it alludes to his grandmother’s ailing health. ’20 Wave Caps’ is a darker, rawer beat-led track, with Earl really showcasing his wordplay.

‘Sunday,’ one of the highlights, is more than heartfelt. Earl spits memorable bars about being faithful to his girlfriend, despite all the things he does. Something special about this track is Frank Ocean’s guest spot – echoing Earl’s spot on Frank Ocean’s ‘Super Rich Kids.’ Ocean reminds everyone about his rap skills, and he certainly speaks on the Chris Brown fight, saying “And why’s his mug all bloody, that was a three on one? / Standing ovation at Staples I got my Grammy’s and gold.” referring to defeating Chris Brown in the Best Urban Contemporary Album at the Grammy’s last year.

‘Hive’ thunders off with droning bass and Earl’s electric bars about his control over his own image. Calling out critics and interns, Earl demands to be called a synonym of menace and nothing less. On this track, he earns that title, burning the track’s four minutes up and decisively welcoming himself in the hierarchy of modern-day rappers. If ‘Hive’ should be remembered for anything, it should be the moment Earl Sweatshirt made it. The track’s instrumental is as minimalistic as it gets – bass, light percussion, and light ambience – showcasing the raps even more clear.

The first track released back in November 2012, ‘Chum’ plucks the piano and the heartstrings while explaining his lack of a relationship with his father and his friendship with Tyler, The Creator. Although Tyler did much of the same on his latest album, Wolf, Earl does it with more precision and with better clarity. Speaking of Tyler, he features on ‘Sasquatch,’ one of the more mediocre tracks on the album, with little of this track standing out. ‘Whoa’ comes on much later and fires up the nearly stagnant second half, save ‘Guild’ with Mac Miller and ‘Molasses’ with RZA of Wu-Tang Clan. Tyler delivers probably one of the most memorable hooks in Odd Future history, simply “G-O-L-F-dub-A-N-G.”

Earl Sweatshirt’s debut album is a mix-up of Odd Future-esque production and Earl’s signature delivery, spread over fifteen tracks – some great, some okay, some skippable. Doris is a highly successful and impressive debut album for any rapper, but for Earl, it seems even more impressive. At 19, he’s blazing trails and making his name memorable to many. Doris will be one of the better rap albums of 2013, but will also be looked back at when Earl Sweatshirt continues his trek into stardom. It’s only a matter of time.