It’s difficult to pin down where Earl Sweatshirt belongs in 2019’s music scene. His critically acclaimed album,”Some Rap Songs”, from last year was a departure from his earlier more mainstream efforts, featuring few hooks and more introspective streams of consciousness over abrasive production.
This year he returns with “Feet Of Clay”, a seven-track project that clocks in at a mere 15 minutes, which follows the recent trend of shorter albums in hip-hop. Like his last album, this release deals with themes of loss, addiction and isolation, rapping again about the death of his father, a theme which dominated his previous album.
Sweatshirt’s appeal is honesty and emotion delivered with energy over mind-bending production. It’s not hip-hop that will have top 10 singles like Travis Scott or Drake, or even Kendrick Lamar. It’s pure spoken word that leaves you emotionally exhausted in the best possible way.
It’s a long way from the thrilling yet juvenile early Odd Future releases. Much like his fellow Future alumni Tyler, The Creator, Sweatshirt has grown a lot from the days of Eminem inspired “horrorcore”.
This is likely down to the effects of maturity. When his first mixtape “Earl” was released in 2010, he had just turned 16 years old the month before. Hailing from Chicago with a South African background, the rapper is no longer a teenager, but a man in his mid-twenties trying to deal with substance abuse and the loss of his father in the only way he knows; through his music.
The main criticism that stands out for this album is simply that it’s too short to make an impact. It’s barely even long enough to meet the criteria for what was considered an EP in the days of physical releases. The songs are delivered well, the lyrics have substance behind them, but when you release something that takes less time to play than an oven pizza takes to cook, your audience is bound to be left feeling a little unfulfilled.
However, as with any artist, what your fans think is slightly less important than how you feel about your own work. Essentially, creative satisfaction is the main objective, and I’m sure Sweatshirt is perfectly happy with his first release on Warner’s record label.
The standout song on this release is “East”, a track delivered over an eerie accordion sample that unnerves the listener, while Earl raps about sticking to his own path and leaving his history in Odd Future behind. Its two-minute running time actually adds to the song by allowing room for the message behind the words to be delivered without becoming pretentious.
Ultimately, it’s suspected that this will prove a mere taster for a much longer release next year by the rapper. A more fleshed out, fuller release would certainly be welcome considering how good this project already is.
Image Credit: Earl Sweatshirt Album Cover