The world of hip-hop was gifted a gem on August 20th, 2013. Full of potential, hoppy youthful production and rapping beyond his years (Earl was 19 when he released debut studio album ‘Doris‘) the project garnered mass acclaim and is still in daily rotation of lots of hip-hop playlists. Combining lyrics full of relatable sentiments, witty remarks and bespoke observations with vibrant production endorsed by unrelenting waves of slapping bass, ‘Doris‘ instantly stood out not only as a seminal record, but as a great example of how to achieve the continuously sought after ‘modern’ sound, with meaningful content that delivers messages aplenty, front to back.

I remember quite clearly venturing to my nearest HMV (a good half an hour drive, or hour-long bus ride to the next town) and picking up a physical copy of ‘Doris‘, feeling so chuffed with the score and being so impatient to get home and blast it. I was totally blown away, and still am when I let the velvet smooth tones of ‘Burgundy‘ bop their way through my speakers, with Vince Staples‘ comedic yet harshly true spoken introduction setting the stage for Earl to do his thang:

What’s up, n*gga? Why you so depressed and sad all the time like a little bitch? What’s the problem, man? N*ggas want to hear you rap. Don’t nobody care about how you feel, we want raps, n*gga.

You could have easily believed ‘Doris‘ was Earl‘s second or third studio project, for the balance it attains between that striking rawness that is often what debut albums are full of, with the wonderfully tone-setting production and incredibly mature approach at topics dealt with and command of lyrics & wordplay. From the very off ‘Doris‘ was out to stamp it’s mark: ‘Pre‘ holds countless memories for me and is a song I never grow tired off, for starters that incredible, booming bass just doesn’t stop slapping yo’ face and the intro verse from Sk La Flare sets things off majestically, leading to a slight pause before Earl steps in and steps up. The beat feels harder somehow for that brief inter-verse pause and you feel like you’re receiving hip-hop gospel of a ballistic nature, enticed and held in captivation from his first line as he proclaims: “I’m a problem to n*ggas. Pop artillery, the carbonates with him

Earl had a lot to pool from when writing for the project, as no sooner had he began gaining some notice as part of hip hop collective OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All) as a sixteen year old, did his mother who was concerned about his erratic behaviour send him from their residence in Los Angeles to Coral Reef Academy – a ‘therapeutic retreat school for at-risk boys’ in Samoa, for two years. When Earl returned home, it was to find his collective, consisting of Tyler, The Creator, Frank Ocean, Mike G, Hodgy Beats, Left Brain, Syd Tha Kid (The Internet) & Domo Genesis had become one of the hottest names in up and coming hip-hop conversations and the world was seemingly at their feet. This would for sure be a strange period of life, and Earl found it all a bit much, hence lyrics on ‘Doris‘ addressing his situation such as the closing line of the melancholic number ‘Chum‘:

Been back a week and I already feel like calling it quits

The transition from mass introspection and sombreness of ‘Chum‘ to the wild, ecstatic urgency driving ‘Sasquatch‘ is quite remarkable. To change pace so viscerally is bold, but the juxtaposition only works to enhance the slap of ‘Sasquatch‘. Led by Tyler, The Creator, the track is overflowing with angst and feels as though it’s verging on the edge of chaos all the way through, like you’re the passenger without a seatbelt in a souped up old school BMW that’s viciously drifting round every corner the driver assaults. Therefore it’s no surprise this song incites genuine madness in a live rendition and secures the spot of most high-octane number on ‘Doris‘.

It’s no secret that Earl has led a troubled life, he made this fairly obvious himself with the content on the 2015 follow up to ‘Doris‘, the grave and candidly titled ‘I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside‘. With lead single ‘Grief‘ talking about reaping what he’s sewed, in a regretful tone – Earl has on numerous occasions questioned his life choices and been specific about those choices including his desire to rap and debates if he’d have been happier had Odd Future never amassed any fame.

The personal issues and struggles with fame have assuredly prevented Earl from reaching the supreme potential that ‘Doris‘ delivered and also promised, and if nothing else I find it a huge shame. Not for how big a rapper he could have been in the mainstream fold point of view, but in terms of how much amazing music he could have birthed the fans who recognise his gift of the gab and natural knack for wordplay. That’s not to say ‘IDLSIDGO‘ didn’t have a notable impact, as the project is championed by lots of fans and regarded as a very powerful collection of songs that have helped listeners get through tough times; people who are perhaps dealing with the exact things Earl raps so delicately and scintillatingly about.

There are rumours circulating (as there often are) of Earl dropping a project this year, which ultimately it is extremely hard to tell if there is any truth to and as a rule of thumb I won’t bother believing any of the speculation unless the artist in question or an official source claims so much is happening themselves. So, as much as I’d love to get ready for and believe he does have something set to land soon, I’m simply not gonna fool myself. I do know that Earl keeps an extremely low profile in the celebrity media modern standard of being a target for paparazzi and an ever-present social media entity and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear him seemingly announce out of nowhere he does have new tunes to drop, if that is to be the case.

Earl Sweatshirt Doris album cover

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