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Vince Staples is on fire.

Wool” really showed us that. His enticing intro features a brand new flow and a much more energetic Staples than his lethargic and aimless havoc he spat on EARL (2010). His recent music videos and hit single “Norf-Norf” became viral in less than two weeks after release. Odd Future’s odd friend’s future seems quite less odd. He’s no longer talking about smacking women and raping bitches with his grim and ghoulish buddy Earl — he’s onto something much more real, and people had better listen.

It’s something he brought on this year’s I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside. And this something has nothing to do with Vince Staples. This has to do with Earl Sweatshirt.

I wanted “Huey” to be so happy. The second the organ started slapping and the high Doors-esque riff became clear to me I felt like I was home. It felt like I had just pulled up on Santa Monica Boulevard after a crappy day at Venice Beach because we couldn’t find parking and we’re from Pasadena. Like I still didn’t care about shit. (Hearing Earl still doesn’t care for it either.)

If you have expectations forget ‘em. He doesn’t like a lot of shit and he isn’t here to please with this record. He’s moody yet apathetic, courteous yet goddamn disgusting, and a little bit charming the entire time. He’s like that chill dude you met in class who happens to have an obsession with occultism and can spit harder than a young Nas. And you really can hear that in this album, that raw, menacing, yet genius flow. Something that many felt was subdued, repressed, or just lost on Doris (2013).

“Mantra” hits you with a much faster tempo than “Huey.” This second I Don’t Like Shit song rolls in at the pace that I wanted “Huey” to be set at. It’s a sucker punch. Stop judging the stuff he’s saying: he doesn’t care and you won’t either, especially if you’re distracted by the surface. All that doesn’t glitter isn’t necessarily not gold.

The record’s featured single, “Grief”,  reminded me that I (an openly recovering user) can be just as manic as Earl, that I can embrace my own personal addictions, and that it’s all going to be ok. We all grieve. Life is not without suffering. But we’re here to bump the same mood and ride with it.

This album helped me discover who I really am.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of it was absolutely terrible production-wise. This album is not perfect. You could tell Earl was always, always a little hazy. He’s worked it into his greatness, which is an incredible yet dangerous thing to do. It gave him creative license to get mad faded most of the time. Earl was too strung out to record most days. He was a junkie, and he didn’t give it his all. There’s even an NPR bit featuring Earl himself admitting he was too fucked up to produce something quality most of the time. He echoes this sentiment in “Off Top,” where he dramatically coughs and cries “yo I gotta stop smokin’ on these Backwoods man.”

Give me a piece that couldn’t have been more aesthetically pleasing or possibly even higher quality to another observer. “Wool” was pretty lax after its gnarly intro. Not that Earl doesn’t go in, but it’s just him going deep into two drum kicks, a few bass strums, and a piano chord. What I love about this being the weakest song is that it’s the one where he is the most self-aggrandizing. Earl himself says “I don’t act hard; I’m a hard act to follow” in “Grief.” In fact, show this to 100 people and I guarantee it’s too large of a sample size. I think one is too large of a sample size already to try and objectively gauge this album.

Personally, I don’t love every beat. I think Earl could have more than these grim 2010-reminiscent snare hits. I dig getting moody, but moody implies almost a new temperament of temperament. Or at least being a bit more temperamental than before.  You hear Earl’s suffering on this entire album. Asking you to “step into the shadows and we can talk addiction.” Grieving that it’s hard — that you know “when it’s harmful where you going and the part of you that know it just [really] don’t give a fuck scramblin’ for that Xanax out the canister to pop” — that’s real. Earl tells you how it is. Honestly so.

And then to lighten it back up, Earl does satirize in a stereotypical Roc-boy fashion when he weakly groans to his producer “you’re crazy for this one!” on “Inside.” The joke is, he produced this beat himself. (In fact, he self-produced the entire album sans “Off Top” giving that whole credit to his Odd Future homie Left Brain.) “Inside” is where Earl reveals his core, a raw and vulnerable yet satisfied young kid. He’s not too moody, not aggressive here. Just happy. Just being.

Earl’s more than a medium name in the rap game. On I Don’t Like Shit, his sound and flow have come together much more. This isn’t a happy album. This wasn’t a gangster-thumbing bass-dropping EARL (2010) or even Doris. This is Earl himself, raw, vulnerable, and looking at the world around him. Sometimes it seems like it can be horrendously grim and he doesn’t like that. I can’t say I disagree with him.

Article by Dan Savo



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