Despite the huge buzz and heavy praise that has surrounded him through his brief career so far, it has taken me some time to appreciate the artistry of Earl Sweatshirt, outside of his appearance providing the hook for Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids”. However, when the news came that he was releasing an album entitled I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, I knew I would have to be tracking down a copy; the last time the mere mention of an album title had me scrambling like this, Atmosphere had just released When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, and that became one of my favorite hip-hop albums of that year. Much like Atmosphere’s record, I Don’t Like Shit is a deeply introspective and reflective album, though it is a much darker musical journey that is distinguished by its grim and spare production.
Earl’s often extremely laid-back flow can make a codeine user appear as hopped-up as a meth addict, but on many tracks the deliberateness of his delivery helps emphasize his lyrics. The album begins on a bright and playful note with the intro “Huey”, but this mood is quickly replaced by a more ominous tone that haunts the rest of the record. Earl creates drum tracks that are heavily processed to emphasize unnatural tones, and the eerie synths and other industrial touches recall early Wu-Tang solo records.
Considering the often bleak subject matter, Earl wisely restricts the running time on I Don’t Like Shit, wrapping up the album in a concise fashion in slightly less than half an hour. Lyrics deal with death, anxiety, depression, and the emptiness of fame in a frank and honest manner, but the album avoids merely dwelling in misery. Though it is dark, I Don’t Like Shit is never oppressive, which makes it easier to digest over repeated listens.
Earl’s ability to maintain a strict standard in his editing is something that his fellow Odd Future mate, Tyler, the Creator, needs to learn. His latest, Cherry Bomb, starts off promising enough, with its nods to N.E.R.D.’s catalog that are fun and engaging, but the album slides off the rails by the end. It is certainly an improvement over the practically unlistenable Wolf, but Tyler still has trouble harnessing some of the potential seen on Goblin. Tyler has shown some great talent with his production over the years, and I often prefer his particular delivery when he raps, but he continually falls into the same traps over and over again. Experimentation can be exciting, but not every idea needs to be heard, and shock tactics result in diminishing returns.