Three years have passed since Earl Sweatshirt’s (aka Thebe Kgositsile) second record I Don’t Like Sh**, I Don’t Go Outside and his fans have been wondering when he was going to make new music. Over 2017 he tweeted that new music was being made to get buzz circulating. However, this album is far from what his last two albums were instrumentally and sonically. On Some Rap Songs, Earl creates a sound that is unlike anything out now in hip-hop. He creates a mood that sticks with the listener throughout the entire record and even after. His lyrics stay mostly as in-depth and introverted as they usually are. On this album, the lyrics are sadder and more introspective about his life, state of mind, and current emotional state after the tragic loss of his father.
A new sound
Earl produced most of this album under his producer pseudonym RandomBlackDude, and with these beats and instrumentals, he used a sample for each song. The beats themselves revolve around the samples and that’s how the tone is created. On the songs “Shattered Dreams,” “Red Water,” and “Ontheway!” the samples are mixed with the beats to create a muddled, soft droning sound. This sound mixes incredibly well with Earl’s flow and lyrics. Another sound that appears often is a disoriented groove sound. This comes up on tracks like “The Bends,” “NOWHERE2GO” (a favorite of mine,) and “Peanut.” These mood and tone changes make the album interesting to listen to and allow the listener to be surprised at what is coming next on first listen. “Peanut” is worth mentioning due to the weird and different angle it takes. The song feels very on edge, and this is complemented by the TV static sounds looming in the background and the slurred, sad performance by Earl. The lyrics make the track even more depressing, but we will get to the lyrics soon. The songs feel very experimental and atmospheric. Earl has always created soft quiet beats, but the samples on these songs add a whole new aspect to the music, making this album original in its own way. The best part about this record is that not one song sounds like the other, they are only tied together by the themes and samples.
Lyrics and subject matter that add to the sorrowful tone
Some Rap Songs is very sad, and the story that predates the album is even more tragic. Earl’s father Keorapetse Kgositsil passed away in January of this year. Earl was going to use this album to mend his fractured relationship with his father, but just before Earl sent the album to him, he died. The listener can feel that tragedy leak through the lyrics and instrumentals of this record. This comes up on “Peanut.” The lyrics “Death, it has a sour taste” mixed with the already tense instrumental offers the feeling of loss and death. The songs that bring his father up feel real with emotion and Earl does a fantastic job of putting his feeling into the music. Other themes of the album include his state of mind, which is found on “Eclipse,” one of the slow, mellow tracks, where Earl ironically opens up on his state of mind, “Say goodbye to my openness, total eclipse.”
There are cuts on the album that discuss his mental health and the anxieties that come from being pressured to release music and the everyday world we live in. These tracks again feel raw, from the heart and are complemented by the instrumentals that create what the lyrics are saying. The most compelling song on the album is “Playing Possum.” On this track, Earl uses samples of his mother, Cheryl Harris, thanking Earl and their family, and his father reciting a poem titled, “Anguish Longer Than Sorrow.” The instrumental sounds like samples from soul music mixed with a slow drum beat that pushes the listener to pay attention to what his parents are saying.
A triumph in alternative/experimental hip/hop
The way the album flows seems intentional. The last three tracks on the album are “Playing Possum,” followed by “Peanut,” and finally “Riot!” The final song is an instrumental tribute to his father’s friend Hugh Masekela, a South African jazz artist, and a fitting end to an emotional album. Some Rap Songs is certainly not just some rap songs. Even though the songs are short, many just over one minute, there are clear themes in the music and lyrics that are established well. The flow of the album fleshes out all the disoriented and droning tones and distributes them evenly across the record. There are definite influences that Earl has of course, just like every other artist in the world, but what Earl has created with this record is entirely original.
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