Fans of rapper Earl Sweatshirt — a moniker employed by Thebe Neruda Kgositsile — really have it rough sometimes. He releases something new every few years or so, only to go back into isolation. The good thing about his schedule, however, is that he always leaves something behind that’ll keep fans satisfied until his next project comes along.
Sweatshirt’s latest project, Some Rap Songs, is exactly that and more, finding the rapper at his most vulnerable and his most raw. Sweatshirt is not one to shy away from talking about depression and internal struggles, but on Some Rap Songs, he is at his worst in terms of his mental state.
He expresses his struggles through a 25-minute lo-fi music experience that is extremely different from anything the rapper has produced up to this point.
A common theme of the album is depression, and Sweatshirt is able to express this through lyricism on songs like “Nowhere2go” and “Ontheway!” among others. Over the entire record’s course, Sweatshirt raps in a very melancholic and monotone voice, which, given the context of the record, enhances the themes in unique ways. The production gives off a lo-fi sound that is found throughout the entire project, emphasizing many of the themes mentioned.
It’s also worth mentioning that Sweatshirt uses a lot of the common tropes found on many rap records released in the last few months.
For starters, Sweatshirt’s latest project comes in at less than half an hour long, reminiscent of Kanye West’s albums released over the summer through the label G.O.O.D.
Sweatshirt also dabbles in jazz beats similar to those of fellow rapper Kendrick Lamar. As a result, one might think Sweatshirt is on the bandwagon of modern hip-hop trends trying to stay relevant, but he still manages to successfully find his identity as an artist while experimenting with this new approach.
Sweatshirt’s raps get to the core of a lot of his problems, including common themes of mentioning his overprotective mother, absent father and death itself. Sweatshirt is extremely upfront, close and personal when rapping about every theme in this record.
One of the most sentimental moments on the entire album is in its final song. “Riot!” features a sample of the late Hugh Masekela, who died at the beginning of the year and was a friend of Sweatshirt. It is a haunting instrumental piece that is clearly reflective of the entire record.
One of the tracks that demonstrates Sweatshirt’s talent on Some Rap Songs is “Loosie,” in which the rapper took control of producing, engineering and lyrics. The album also features appearances from artists like Gio Escobar and underground New York City rapper Navy Blue, who give their own unique takes on the themes presented, offering a nice detour in the tracks they’re included in.
It’s clear from the fan reception that Sweatshirt’s approach to extremely personal lyrics resonates with a large group of people. As a listener, this project may seem too extreme at times, but it’s clear that the lyrics do have something for anyone to relate to.
Sweatshirt covers a wide range of different issues concerning himself and others. In the opening track, “Shattered Dreams,” Sweatshirt refers to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. On the track “Veins,” he discusses the state of the environment around him, making subtle nods to racism and the administration of President Donald Trump.
In one of those rare cases in music, less is more. On Some Rap Songs, Sweatshirt manages to immerse the listener into a glimpse of his mind in only 25 minutes. A project in which length doesn’t even reflect the grand scale of impact it will have on the listener, the album successfully places Sweatshirt as one of the most fascinating rappers to emerge in the last decade.
It’s definitely not an album that listeners can expect to click with on their first listen, but it’s worth examining those few extra times. It’s a shame that, based on his track record, Sweatshirt probably won’t release a major project for another few years or so, but it’s needless to say that his fans can’t wait to hear what he has planned next.
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