Earl Sweatshirt experiments on “Some Rap Songs”


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Thebe Kgositsile used to go by the name Sly Tendencies before Tyler the Creator invited him to join Odd Future in 2009.

Tanner Owens

It’s a return that’s been a long time coming.

Earl Sweatshirt, previously of Odd Future, released his third studio album, “Some Rap Songs” last weekend. The majority of the album is produced by the artist—real name is Thebe Kgositsile. Kgositsile’s last album, “I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t Go Outside,” dropped in 2015.

Since then, the introverted artist has quietly featured on multiple tracks throughout the years. Recently Kgositsile has been more active. Kgositsile performed at Mac Miller’s memorial concert alongside artists like John Mayer and Schoolboy Q. Kgositsile also lended a track to Vince Staples’ latest project, “FM!”

The hype for Kgositsile’s new album surged during the last three months. In September, The Alchemist released an EP featuring Earl Sweatshirt. On Vince Staples’ “Beats 1” radio station titled “Ramona Radio,” Staples’ said “Earl is back.”

The hype didn’t end at Twitter losing its collective mind over Kgositsile returning to music. The artist also bought up ad space around Los Angeles to advertise his return to music, much to the excitement of his fans.

Sweatshirt has been under a great deal of pressure in recent months. His close friend, Malcolm McCormick, known professionally as Mac Miller, died suddenly in September due to an overdose. Sweatshirt’s father, South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, died in January of this year as well.

In addition to this, Sweatshirt has amassed a sort of cult following that is known for demanding music constantly. This following has brought a large amount of flak online for Sweatshirt to drop new music. Instead of being able to produce an album at his own pace, some fans demanded him to release music immediately and ignore his creative process.

Sweatshirt has consistently expressed his dislike for being in the public eye, a particularly touchy issue during his tenure with Odd Future.

Despite all the distractions that Kgositsile faced during 2018, “Some Rap Songs” hit every major music streaming platform on Nov. 30. The album is a quick listen, coming in at just 25 minutes long, but doesn’t feel incomplete because what is packed in is so dense.

Sweatshirt’s songs are filled with surreal sounds and heavily chopped up samples. Chords are hardly existent, with Kgositsile instead opting to experiment with his own style of production. 

The album takes on more of a jazz feeling than his older works. Songs like “Chum” from Sweatshirt’s 2013 album, “Doris,” maintained a heavy hip-hop influence. On “Some Rap Songs,” songs like “Riot!” feature the crackling of a vinyl record along with a traditional jazz band setup. A steady drum kit plays in the background as clean guitar plays straight through the amplifier. 

A perfect example of Kgositsile’s experimentation comes in the form of the single, “Nowhere2go.” The beat behind Sweatshirt’s vocals features many different sounds, seemingly not following any sort of pattern throughout the song.

The highlight song of the album is hard to pin down. “December 24” and “The Mint (feat. Navy Blue)” both compete for the best song of the album.

“December 24” has an eerie hip-hop beat that drives Sweatshirt through the track with unusual vigor. The artist’s vocals are more pronounced and in-your-face than other songs on the album.

“It is surely time that the speech of the black culture of America be recognized as a genuine dialect of English,” an unknown voice said in the intro of the song. “It is in every sense of the word.”

“The Mint (feat. Navy Blue),” the second single of the album, showcases Kgositsile going back to his root sound. The artist raps about cultural issues with his characteristically low, unenthused voice. The beat carries with it a piano melody and a steady bass line.

Sweatshirt severely undersells the new album with the title, because it’s more than just a few rap songs. “Some Rap Songs” is a triumphant return to music for Kgositsile, who needed to take a break from the spotlight, and hang up Earl Sweatshirt for a while.