Released: Aug 20, 2013
Genre: Underground Hip-Hop, Abstract Hip-Hop
Label: Tan Cressida, Columbia Records
Number Of Tracks: 15
The teenage swag daddy and rap prodigy returns from the Samoan wilderness to answer his critics.
DorisFeatured review by: UG Team, on august 26, 2013 3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sound: Nineteen year-old Earl Sweatshirt comes with one of the strangest backstories in contemporary music. Not many rockstars get sent to corrective institutions by their mothers, but then not many rockstars are rappers either. The youngest and most talented member of ber-hyped rap collective OFWGKTA, Earl made serious waves with his eponymous debut in 2010, stirring controversy with prejudiced, grossly offensive lyrics but coupling it with a vocal ability well beyond any of his peers. Big things were expected of the kid, real name Thebe Kgositsile, but that early success was bizarrely curtailed as his mother ordered him to attend a strict boarding school in Samoa to redress his criminal tendencies. There were rumours, conspiracy theories and doubts that he'd ever return to hip-hop, but three years later he's here with his second full length "Doris" the weight of expectation is now on him as he looks to get back in the game.
Doris is not a glamorous lady. She's dressed in loose, plain clothes and she's not afraid to get them dirty. The lethargic, leering "Pre" sets the tone early; this is an album of minimal layers with repetitive bumps of synth. Sweatshirt relishes the sound of beats coming in and out of focus, and his penchant for juddery snares and changes of mood make this a difficult listen from a production perspective. The sunny chords of "Burgundy" and "20 Wave Caps" build some momentum and pick out a few melodic threads but the rest of the album is reluctant, perhaps intentionally, to settle into a groove. // 6
Lyrics: Earl is joined by a number of guests including Mac Miller, Wu-Tang's RZA and Odd Future comrades Frank Ocean and Domo Genesis, but he rarely concedes the floor for long and still shines bright on some of his solo tracks. That includes last year's comeback single "Chum," a classic soul-searching rap which references his broken youth and troubled family life ("I storm that whole bottle/I'll show you a role model") in an attempt to distance himself from his violent and provocative early material. "I hope I lose you as a fan," he said when the album was announced, "if you only f--k with me because I rapped about raping girls when I was 15." This important sign of progress is borne out in a number of songs which hit out at his fanbase, who expect their amoral, misogynist poster-boy to be undeterred by personal tragedy ("talk all you want I'm taking no advice/n-gga, I'm about to relish in this anguish"), and critics who have typecast him prematurely ("the description doesn't fit/if not a synonym of menace then forget it.")
That doesn't mean that he's gone soft, however Earl has the scars of a poet, and warped minds don't heal overnight. "Molasses" projects a number of violent and sexual fantasies, albeit relatively mild ones compared to what came before, while Tyler, The Creator's verse on "Sasquatch" makes fun of his record for bigotry without making too much effort to actually admonish it ("after filling my reputation of whore beaters/soared to Taco Bell and ordered some gorditas.") "Doris" still has a habit of retreating into its shell when the inspiration ebbs, with cryptic language leaving tracks like "Hoarse" rather cagey and hard to engage with. When Earl turns introvert and his language untangles, though, the way he dances around each rhyme is effortlessly fresh, and the honesty of it all marks a big step forward in his rap. // 7
Overall Impression: "Doris" is the sound of a prodigy finding mature ways to use his gift, a staggered attack of smudged beats and distracted lyricism which frustrates more than it thrills but reserves reward for those who mine its words for wisdom. Wriggling into tight stylistic spaces and at times struggling to escape them, the guidelines of Odd Future hip-hop are still woven through his music but the young man is starting to make some exciting plans of his own. It might be a few more years until Thebe Kgositsile takes a seat at hip-hop's top table, but when he arrives, expect something spectacular.
KerNeL_KLuTcH, on september 09, 2013 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: Earl Sweatshirt is the youngest member and arguably the most talented rapper of Los Angeles hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. The sound of this album is much more polished than Earl's mixtape, and feature almost none of the glitchy synths and quirky piano hooks that were a mainstay of that release, this could be due to Earl handling much of the production himself, as opposed to Tyler, The Creator producing most of the tracks as he has in past Odd Future projects. Tyler only produces two tracks, "Sasquatch" and "Whoa," these both feature Tyler's typical boom bap beats and melodic synths. Earl under pseudonym randomblackdude produces 7 of the album's 15 tracks. Other production comes from Wu-Tang's RZA, pop-rapper Mac Miller under pseudonym Larry Fishman, and The NeptunesPharell to name some. The beats tend to be very minimalist, aside from Molasses which features RZA's typical gritty production. The song "523" is an instrumental which showcases Earl's beat making skills. // 9
Lyrics: Lyricism has always been Earl's strong point, his clever metaphors and intricate rhymes which are quite advanced for his age, which is one of the qualities that earned him fame in the first place. Lyricism is something that has been lost in much of today's popular hip-hop but Earl is one of the few aside from greats such as Nas and Eminem, that is keeping this type of rapping alive, most tracks will require a few listens to understand them fully. In contrast to Earl's mixtape Earl, the lyrics featured on "Doris" are much more mature, most of the shock horrorcore type lyrics are gone, save for songs like "Hive," which compared to songs like "epaR" from his mixtape is tame. The lyrics compliment the music greatly with darker songs like "Hive" and "Sasquatch" feature dark beats that compliment the equally dark lyrics. // 10
Overall Impression: I'm going to say something that even Earl himself said in an interview, if you liked Earl for the horrorcore type shock value you might not like "Doris," since Earl has moved on from rapping about raping girls and other f--ked up sh-t. My favorite song without a doubt is "Hive," Vince Staples verse at the end is amazing, and Earl's verses are superb as well. I also like "Sasquatch" since it seems to hearken back to some of the older more twisted Odd Future tracks. The only thing I don't like is some of the tracks are quite short, and there is a noticeable lack of hooks. "Whoa" is a great tag team between Tyler and Earl. "Guild" is a unique track which starts with a verse from Mac Miller and then Earl, with both of their vocals being very low in the mix. Overall I am very pleased with this album, much more so than I expected to be since in hip-hop living up to expectations tends to be very difficult but "Doris" has exceeded my expectations. If this were stolen I would definitely replace it. // 9