Some Rap Songs
Year of release: 2018
by Jericho Cerrona
Earl Sweatshirt (aka Thebe Kgositsile) sounds like a man twice his age on long-awaited third album, Some Rap Songs. There was always a deeply introspective side to the heralded rapper who became famous at age 16 as a member of Odd Future, but his evolution from pop culture phenomenon to someone nearly vanishing into obscurity has its footing in real pain. Dealing with depression, vaulted expectations, and the death of his father earlier this year creates a paradigm for which to view Some Rap Songs, which is the most fully realized work of his career thus far.
The notion of pain and loneliness as a real geographical space is at the forefront of the record, which favors atmosphere over song structure, lo-fi beats over polished instrumentals, and deadpan rhymes over spit-fire bars. Now 24, Earl feels much more at home with himself as well as detached from his station in life. Using chopped up samples, jazzy interludes, warped audio clips, and tape hiss, Some Rap Songs creates a disorienting sonic landscape on which Earl projects feelings of loneliness and isolation.
On songs like “Nowhere2Go”, he contemplates depression in regards to impending death over stuttering loops and wonky samples. On “Azur”, Earl gives it up for the way his mother filled the void left by a distant father'; My cushion was a bosom on bad days/It’s not a black woman I can’t thank. His mother shows up again on “Playing Possum”, sampled from a keynote speech intertwined with his dad reciting a poem, and it’s simultaneously uplifting and caustic.
Thematically, the shadow of his parents (especially his late father) looms large over Some Rap Songs, while the left-field production is going for a very Madlib vibe. It’s a combination that works like gangbusters; with distinct lyrical rhymes and experimental soundscapes encompassing 15 tracks, none of which stretch beyond two minutes. Rap as therapy has rarely sounded this revelatory.