The nature of Earl Sweatshirt’s fame has always been somewhat mythic. His virtuosic ability, coupled with his young age and sudden disappearance just as Odd Future began to garner attention, inadvertently led to the rapper being deified by legions of fans. His period of absence and prodigious ability generated a mythos around the rapper that lingers to this day thanks to his tendency to retreat into the shadows for a few years at a time in between releases.
Slightly uncharacteristic of Earl, his latest offering arrives just under a year after his latest full length in the form of 'FEET OF CLAY'. The 7-track EP features guest spots from Mavi and Mach-Hommy as well as guest production from Alchemist.
‘74’ serves as the projects opener, Earl making his presence known immediately, barely giving the track any room to breathe before he begins spitting. It perfectly encapsulates the appeal of Earl’s music. His beats are rarely packed with a cacophony of sounds, the main attraction being Earl’s stream-of-conscious style of rapping. Barely a second in and Earl is addressing his listeners that are often clamouring for new music (“Chatterboxes flapin’ but I got a lot ‘em fed”). The instrumental is unsurprisingly minimal - so as not to distract from Earl’s bars - a ghostly piano sample is interspersed with fuzzy drums that thump and oscillate, all coming together to create a murky atmosphere that sets the tone for the entirety of the project’s 15 minute runtime.
‘EAST’ is driven by a looping accordion and as the track stumbles along it sounds almost as though the instrumental is trying to outrun Earl’s vocals. It’s an odd choice as far as beat selection goes; his music has always been a far cry from danceable pop rap but the lack of cohesion between the vocals and the instrumental is simply jarring, a shame considering some great lines like: “‘Off top’ was me, no cap, I don’t bottle things”.
The clarity of the mixes on 'Some Rap Songs' was called into question by some and 'FEET OF CLAY' will likely be met with similar criticisms. But the record’s lo-fi fuzziness is clearly an aesthetic choice and Earl's insistence in adhering to it ties this latest EP to his previous project nicely - It truly feels as though he’s found a lane he's comfortable in.
Brevity is one of the core components of ‘FEET OF CLAY’. The majority of its songs clock in under two minutes ,but Earl is able to pack so much into the short amount of time that most tracks warrant multiple listens. ‘MTOMB’ is a melancholy number bolstered by a beautiful soul sample, detailing the struggles of dealing with life in the wake of his father’s death. He ruminates on unresolved issues that still haunt him after his father’s passing (“Piscean, just like my father, still got bones to pick out”) before resigning himself to the idea that all he can do is drink away the pain: “For now let’s salt the rims and pour a drink out”. It’s truly one of the standout moments on the project.
‘OD’ is another highlight. Earl keeps things candid when discussing his dependency on alcohol - “Healing cuts, but real-really, I’m refilling the pump, no concealing it” - echoing the sentiment of ‘Huey’ from his 2015 sophomore LP. He also finds time to reflect on how his rapid ascent to fame forced him to mature quickly, as he states: “Feeling rushed, grew up quick, trip around the sun, this my 25th”.
Death and darkness loom over 'FEET OF CLAY'. Murky loops and a stream-of-consciousness style of rapping make the project feel like an extension of the sound honed on 'Some Rap Songs', albeit a less streamlined version of it. Nonetheless, Earl is as you've come to know him: unflinchingly honest, languid yet lyrically dexterous and decidedly lo-fi.
Words: Sul Fell
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