Of the many stories to be spun off from Odd Future’s explosion on the Internetz in recent years (their controversy-craving shock-rap lyrical arsenal; their re-defining of the hip-hop underground; Tyler, The Creator’s breakout as the crew’s superstar; everything Frank Ocean), one of the more intriguing OF sagas has revolved around Earl Sweatshirt.
The talented teenager with a complex mic savvy well beyond his years (and, truthfully, many of his bigger-selling older contemporaries’ skills) became his own cult phenomenon after dropping the acclaimed (and, in true OF fashion, heavily nightmarish) 2010 solo tape Earl only to, soon after, seemingly disappear off the face of the Earth, sparking a massive “Free Earl” campaign on-line as the truth of his mysterious whereabouts slowly trickled to light (it was eventually learned that Earl’s mother had sent him to Samoa for a year-long stint at a retreat camp for at-risk youth).
Now, after months back on the U.S. shores and a few cameo appearances here and there that have got the blogosphere in a tizzy, anticipation is reaching new heights over what new dark, twisted fantasies the young’un will wield next.
There’s still no official release date out for the next solo Earl project or the long-hyped Tyler-collabo album EarlWolf, but Mr. Sweatshirt did unleash a new track Thursday in the form of “Chum”, a sobering, diary-stripping confessional to remind anyone who might have forgotten why Earl was being touted from many as Odd Future’s sickest with the pen way back when.
Wildly avoiding the clutched-pearls-inducing antics that put Earl and his team on most keyboard-tappers’ radars, “Chum” catches a now-eighteen-year-old Earl ruminating instead on small blips of his past. A dusty piano loop and tumbling drums tracking his every word, Earl sounds like he’s flipping through a photo album here, pausing on each pic to relate the emotions he was going through at the time.
From digesting his feelings on a father that’s been out of his life for twelve years (“I used to say ‘I hate him’ in dishonest jest/ When honestly I miss this nigga, like when I was six/ And every time I got the chance to say it, I would swallow it…”) to waxing concern about his alcohol intake (“I’m drunk pissy pissing on somebody front lawn/ Tryin’ to figure out how and when the fuck I missed moderate”) to the built up anger over the people that chose to expose the details of his M.I.A. period (“Thanks so much you made my life harder, and the ties between my mom and I strained and tightened even more than they were before all of this shit”), the three-minute, stream-of-consciousness entry’s rare sneak peek inside Sweatshirt’s personal truths is incredibly compelling, the brow-raising blending of his well-established lyrical impressiveness with an unexpected maturity planting heavy weight behind the young rapper’s 2013 being a break-out one.