Album Review: Earl Sweatshirt – “Doris”

earl-sweatshirt-doris

Coming home to a bag full of fame can either be a joyful bliss or a ghastly nightmare and it could have very well been both for Odd Future Wolf Gang’s top lyricist Earl Sweatshirt, who returned to state grounds after having been sent away to the Samoan Islands for therapy and soul searching.

About a year has passed since then and he has since been back on the frontlines, rousing around with the Tyler, The Creator, Frank Ocean, Domo Genesis and the rest of the crew. Fan of the rap collective knew of the talents that the mentioned three had to offer with their solo projects, but in the eyes of that very same fanbase—and especially under the aggregate of pupils from general hip-hop heads—Sweatshirt still had a lot to prove. However, his new album titled “Doris” acts as his answer back to some of those expectations, and then some.

The rapper also known as Thebe Kgositsile had has his fair share of violent and lewd lyricism in his previous mixtapes, but some of that has died down this time with his first major full-length project. Introspective, reflective and still downright dirty, “Doris” encompasses the new and old Sweatshirt-style of material as he wittily speaks on dealing with the death of his grandmother, his current relationships and his view of critics.

Like most of the album, notable tracks like “Chum” are high in Sweatshirt’s production and lyricism department—but they also gear towards how much of his fame had impacted his personal issues with his family and friends, his mother almost exclusively. With a soulful, jazzy-like beat production from the Neptunes, “Burgandy” especially reinforces these themes of struggling with being torn between his professional and non-professional woes. Unlike the slow and uninteresting “Pre” track, this song immediately sets the with this theme, alongside some great lines such as ‘stressing over payment, so don’t tell me that I made it’ and the being ‘cross faded’ in public while people talk about his nonchalant attitude.

With a mellow-paced rock vibe in the beat production, Sweatshirt brings forth some touchy-feely verses in “Sunday,” a song in which his current relationship with his girlfriend come to light. OF’s R&B aristocrat Frank Ocean is also featured on the track, who spits about coming home to see a lady, and subliminally, about his altercation with Chris Brown.

Fans of Sweatshirt’s darker side will find that the album doesn’t waste away those attributes. A plethora of classic, horror-movie sounding beats with catastrophic imagery makes their appearance in tracks like “Centurion,” which is possibly the king track of the album based on lyricism alone. Past the low-par verse from Vince Staples, the track sonically switches up to a strikingly heavy and spooky sound and is compounded with nothing but straight bars from the man himself. Line by line, Sweatshirt delivers seamless rhymes of selling drugs and aiming shotguns—a solid song for fans who appreciate his early work.

“20 Wave Caps,” “Sasquatch” and “Molasses” equally harbor same jaw-dropping rhymes, and at a glance, Sweatshirt seems to have an endless supply of versatile, double entendre filled raps that are viciously hardcore and self-driven. First time fans however will get the sense that despite his high-end caliber of wordplay, the voice that spearheads them sounds a tad dull. The picture behind some of these song are still worthy of shock value, and it may have been a tactical move on Sweatshirt’s part—an effort in which he can ensure that he stays out of the major spotlight. The random lines portraying drugs and gore in this album are still gruesome to an extent, but even with the added fluff of some light-hearted play on love and with an insight into his progression through grief, “Doris” can still be looked at as an extension to his first self-titled mixtape release.

Even with guest appearances from Tyler, the Creator and Domo Genesis, there no doubting that Sweatshirt can dish out the meanest of verses on a whim. “Doris” squashes some of the ‘does he still have it’ questions, and puts them 6 feet under with almost half the album being under the guise of his own production. It also solidifies his position in the rap game:  not the type to be front and center of attention, but a wordsmith that can me named among the likes of Aesop Rock and MF Doom.

There’s no story, nor is there a cohesive chain that ties it all together and there doesn’t need to be one. The OF emcee addressed his problems, then quickly dishes out the illest words straight from his demented, scatterbrained cranium—as it should be. A project worthy of many playbacks, Sweatshirt nails “Doris” as a satisfying project from front to end and one that’ll catapult his career.

 

BY: Bryan Dupont-Gray

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