Earl Sweatshirt - "Doris" Album Review
Odd Future, the industry's collective outcast somehow has been able to continue the momentum of their hype-train created by a roach eating leader and his team of skating, stoner merry men. They're loud, rebellious, and occasionally talented which makes them a combination of Wu-Tang and the Little Rascals. Each member has an odd following, Tyler (social deviant, RZA-esque de facto leader), Domo Genesis (Stoners), Frank Ocean (Women) but out of everyone on the payroll, Earl Sweatshirt has the hip-hop head community's ears prepared for an album deserving of the "Classic" rating. At the age of 16 he proved his lyrical savvy with his debut mixtape EARL, that project alone has kept his spark alive despite not having released a full length project since 2010. Will Doris be the long-awaited successor, or be engulfed in the shadow failed expectations?
There’s a rare aura of anticipation that surrounds Earl Sweatshirt, the misfit who penetrated hip-hop before achieving puberty, his endowment as a wordsmith collided with violent, vehement shock value escalating his debut tape EARL into the ears of Complex Magazine who hailed the mixtape as the 24th best album released in 2010. Then he was just a boy, but his science fiction disappearance created a myth, an urban legend, and rumors carried through social media created a movement bigger than the artist forehead raising his name through the country while Earl was stationed in a Samoan reform school. Earl was the integral final piece to The Odd Future collective transcendence despite his return being uncertain. Reappearing in 2012 instantly started the resurrection of the anxious yearning for that dose of 2010 madness. Somehow, three years of new artists, new albums, and Earl’s evident change of voice and content hasn’t led to faltering fiends, they want it even more now. Throw in a few adroit features, a couple Odd Future humored skit trailers, three stylistically different splendor singles, and you have one of the most talked about debuts of the year.
I must applaud Earl and his aligned team of producer’s efforts into creating an ambiance that sonically captures the depression of every ringtone rapper. Each song has its own shade of ominous melancholy, plunging listeners into a solar eclipsed experience.
Songwriting is Doris’ Excalibur. Technically, Earl is on a level of rapping that makes Kendrick’s verse on “Control” sound like a nursery rhyme. The complex conscious stream of metaphors, imagery, similes, and punchlines buries beats ten feet underneath any doubt that Earl had lost lyrical excellence, exceeding in prowess of his former project.
I must applaud Earl and his aligned team of producer’s efforts into creating an ambiance that sonically captures the depression of every ringtone rapper. Each song has its own shade of ominous melancholy, plunging listeners into a solar eclipsed experience. "Centurion" sounds like being Caucasian walking through Compton at night in 1994; while "Hoarse" samples every Rock n Roll overdosed suicide in the last 10 years. The lurking terror is instilled into the project's heart; sinister keys, somber chords, malevolent drums and black-hearted basslines. Tyler the Creator, Alchemist, RZA, The Neptunes, Badbadnotgood, and most importantly Randomblackdude - Earl’s producer moniker, built the perfect wonderland of horror for Sweatshirt's nightmarish imagination.
The album has no true beginning nor ending, played on shuffle has the same impression as playing the album in its desired placement. The tone doesn’t change; neither does Earl’s energy, creating an atmosphere that isn’t achieved by a consistent sound. It’s all grimy, but like I mention before there’s multiple shades of melancholy. This could turn off listeners that are bored easily, expecting more excitement.
The once substance abuser, offers very little “substance”. His subject matter hasn’t evolved passed the qualms that are award when acquiring fame. On "Burgundy", Vince Staples plays the role of a fan, begging Earl to give us the bars that’s been awaited for the last three years, and that’s exactly what this album is about. Songs like “Chum” and “Sunday” are deeper perceptions of his actual reality, straightforward, not dancing around honest confession with barriers of witty cleverness. There needed to be more moments of clarity. Earl stays true to his promise that this album would stray from EARL's lewd obscenities, so it’s safe to assume no dolphins were raped in its making.
If the songwriting is Doris’ Excalibur, then Earl’s performance would be the Achilles' heel. His delivery is painfully outshined by almost each featured artist (even Frank Ocean's surprise rap showcase). He hasn’t mastered keeping the stream of conscious engaging despite the plethora of quotables. His cadence is also another manner that lowers the value of Doris, he raps in a languorous heroin trance, giving an illusion that the album is one long verse. Along with the minimum subject matter, this would be the biggest flaw in Earl’s offering.