Review: Earl Sweatshirt — Some Rap Songs

Category:  The Arts
Monday, December 10th, 2018 at 7:16 PM
Review: Earl Sweatshirt — Some Rap Songs by Ben McCullough

★★★★★

The only thing Earl Sweatshirt fans really could have asked for were some rap songs, yet they received so much more. His immense fan base, which has accumulated over the past half a decade, made it known that they've been ready for some time. It has been three years since his last release and all of the hype has been worth it.   

Some Rap Songs rolls along as smooth as Earl Sweatshirt’s seemingly effortless flow. Verse after verse, you are kept in a whirl of heavy emotions as the rapper’s powerful attitude and dense murky beats, brings his world to life.  

Sweatshirt is known for expressing his often funereal emotions through rapping about depression, anxiety, loss, and being out of touch with reality. He brings these themes along with other feelings of distress to the table on this record while also examining what he has learned about himself since his last release. 

At certain points, Sweatshirt sounds as is if he is having a good day amidst many bad ones. Through his vocal tone, lyrics and beats on tracks such as “Ontheway!” and “NOWHERE2GO,” we hear a sense of empowerment from the rapper. He sounds as if in that moment, he is satisfied. 

Hearing these wayward lyrics from Sweatshirt is what makes these tracks as a whole so great and real, which is really what the album is all about. 

This album showcases Sweatshirt’s most experimental beats and instrumentals. Elements of lofi and jazz play a major role in the overall retro sound of the record. You hear the crackling and fuzz from vinyl spinning throughout several tracks, working well with his use of samples from classic soul/funk records.  

Sweatshirt shows his lyrical abilities and his eccentric use of language on most verses on the album. His words are more “in your face,” than ever before with little to no filler. At the same time the raps remain witty, utilizing the heavy use of wordplay for which he is known for.  

The opening track, “Shattered Dreams,” loops a sample from a song with the same title by the group The Endeavors. The beat stays consistent and loops until it is over. Sweatshirt occasionally addings wet spacey splashes of sound with a synthesizer.  

The song is about staggering in his life, not wanting to face reality because of his sense of comfortability. He wanted to hear the truth from someone else: “Why aint nobody tell me I was bleedin?” “Why aint nobody tell me I was sinkinain't nobody tell me I could leave?” This is a great way to start the album because it is the beginning of his realizations that he needs to change. 

The next track, “Red Water,” also discusses Sweatshirt not wanting to change but then snapping out of his dream-like state after the death of his father earlier this year. Lyrics reference the first track with similar lines: “Blood in the water, I was walkin in my sleep. Blood on my father, I forgot another dream.”  

Sweatshirt’s mother and father are both featured on the track “Playing Possum,” where samples of his father reading poetry and his mother speaking about him are the only vocals on the track. The instrumental is beautiful and championing, sounding of a praise to his parents. The songs ends with loud, erupting applause.  

Upon my first few listens, not many tracks stood out to me considering the way many of them seem to blend together. After listening through the album many times, all tracks had become clear, two of my favorites came to be “Cold Summers” and “Ontheway!” 

“Cold Summers” features Sweatshirt rapping swift bars over twinkling keys that stand out over a muffled bass line. This track is packed full of some of my favorite wordplay Sweatshirt has ever exhibited.  

For example, “We roam tundras. The boy been gone a few summers too long from road runnin.” He is saying that he has been gone for a few years, and much like a tundra he was in a place where there was nothing for him. These lines also seem to refer to the cartoon Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. 

In just over a minute, Sweatshirt blurs the lines between metaphors and actual occurrences. He raps about love, growth, killing to survive (possibly in a metaphorical sense), being held back by things he uses to stay sane, truth and passion. Making that minute feel like a several year journey.  

On the track, “Ontheway!” The band Standing on the Corner help to make this one of my favorite beats on any of Sweatshirt’s records. Pretty, glossy, groovy guitar chords ring out and slide around during the entirety of the song while Sweatshirt raps with charming confidence. This is the 6th song on the album, and gives listeners a moment away from the consistent saddening themes. 

The 24 minute album ends with track 15 titled “Riot!” Sweatshirt uses an instrumental to close the album, letting the music speak for more than his words.  

This is another one of the few beats that encompass the sounds of “a good day.” A light and simple drum beat backs the keys of a dance-like grand piano, while a guitar packed full of reverb slides along with the rhythm. Loud buzzing trumpets blast away until mellowing out before the song ends. If I had to put the sounds into words, they would have to be “c'est la vie.”  

After Earl Sweatshirt’s several year hiatus, it is great to hear work of this stature from the artist. “Some Rap Songs” contains his heaviest emotional content to date, giving fans details about his life that they have been waiting to hear. Hopefully Sweatshirt continues to try to find peace of mind through making music, or by any means necessary.   

Note: In our physical copy of The Spectator I gave this album 4 stars. After listening to these songs on repeat along with finding myself wanting to read the lyrics all throughout my day, the immense gravity of this album has now sunk in. I mean it's been less than a week of me listening to it and it is easily one of my albums of the year, so how could I not give it 5 stars! 

Ben McCullough can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com.

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