We’re going to do two reviews a week here – one of a new album (less than a year old) and one of an older album. We also thought it’d be cool if our reviews took the form of a discussion, with humor and personality, rather than a dry essay. Our new album review this week is of Earl Sweatshirt’s album Doris. We’re joined in this review by Julian Boireau, a political science student at Knox College, and an award-winning writer for The Knox Student. Click “continue reading” to check it out.
Earl Sweatshirt is a 19-year-old rapper from LA, and a member of the Odd Future collective. He released a debut mixtape, Earl, in 2010. The tape gained attention for Earl’s lyrical skill and the extreme violence and nihilism of its subject matter. Following the tape’s release, Earl’s mother sent him to a boarding school in Samoa for at-risk teen boys, where he remained for around 2 years. Since returning to LA, he dropped tracks sporadically while preparing for the release of Doris, his highly anticipated major-label debut. Doris, named after Earl’s grandmother, was released August 20th, and is available on iTunes and Amazon.
Zen: Hello to all homies involved in this thing.
Zen: So, let’s uhm, do this shit.
Oscar: Yeah word let’s begin. Julian this is Zen, Zen this is Julian.
Julian: This is dog. So… Just to get a feel, Initial impressions?
Zen: It was exactly what I expected, for better and worse.
Oscar: I liked the album a lot more than I thought I would.
Julian: Personally I feel like I had been waiting on this album so diligently that my expectations were too high.
Oscar: Yeah, you’ve been anticipating this for quite a while. Your repeated exasperated “when the fuck is Doris dropping” was really what even made me interested in this album.
Julian: As polished as Earl is for his age this is his first major release since he’s come back, it’s not as different as I thought it would be.
Zen: Yeah, I agree with that statement.
Oscar: I third that.
Zen: Are you an Odd Future die-hard fan Julian?
Julian: I’m not a die-hard fan, but I associate with them to a certain extent in that they sold CDs at my school. And paint a picture of LA that I recognize.
Zen: Were they as ignant in person as they are on every other medium they ever appear in?
Julian: Yeah, that’s their persona/selling point and they stuck to it. But I had class with a kid, Julian Berman who drove them around a bunch and he characterized them as typical LA teens.
Zen: That’s terrifying that all LA teens are like that, but I’m glad they stuck to the persona they’ve cultivated, whatever my opinion on that persona is.
Julian: No no no, he characterized them as typical whereas they put forth a much more, I’m looking for the word, radical facade I suppose.
Zen: Well, what were your guys’ favorite joints?
Oscar: Do we have anything to expand upon in terms of overall opinion? I mean, we were very brief, I wouldn’t want to cut off any ideas too soon.
Julian: I think that his teasers (“Burgundy,” “Hive,” “Chum,” “Whoa”) were way more varied stylistically than the album as a whole. Like the Drive trailer coming off as a Fast & Furious type deal.
Oscar: I agree with that. Although “Molasses” and “Knight” and “Hoarse” broke the mold too.
Julian: “Molasses” is my shit
Julian: That beat made me turn my headphones up for sure.
Oscar: RZA doing his magic.
Julian: I want to know how much Earl wrote for the features, or if he let people come in with their own stuff.
Oscar: It sounded like he did a bit.
Julian: Yeah, I don’t know how much freedom Domo had.
Zen: I can get behind Julian’s statement. But my main complaint, like in every rap album we’ve discussed thus far, is that I want less of the crew, and more of the person who has their name on the goddamn album.
Oscar: Especially that goddamn chipmunk Mac Miller.
Julian: Fuck Mac Miller.
Zen: Julian, can I just say, the fact that we can all agree that rodent faced cuntnugget can go fuck himself makes me very happy.
Julian: I appreciate the clarification. I saw a concert with Chance (Ed. Note: The Rapper) and Action (Ed. Note: Bronson) and I had to suffer through Mac.
Oscar: I’m so sorry.
Zen: I hope you threw something, preferably jagged, at his face.
Julian: Naw, just my roaches.
Zen: Good job.
Oscar: OK so 3 top choices? Who wants to go first?
Zen: Let’s not all jump up at once.
Oscar: OK sure. Number one is I think, “Burgundy.”
Oscar: Earl fits surprisingly well over The Neptunes’ production, the “cut that bitch off” sample is fucking dope, and I think he gets a good amount of personal here while remaining lyrical, in terms of puns and metaphors etc. And his flow on the second verse, the whole double-time thing, is unusual for him. It’s nice to see him step out of his whole internal rhyme thing. Second is “Sunday.”
Julian: Zen – lemme just say that I agree with your one complaint – pardon the interruption, but I’d love to hear “Hive” without Vince Staples.
Zen: Julian – I’d like to hear most things without Vince Staples.
Julian: Thumbs up.
Oscar: I’m just gonna have to disagree with you guys on that.
Oscar: I really liked Vince on “Hive,” not necessarily on other stuff. His verse on “Hive” reminds me of southern lyricism. It’s smooth, laid-back, like early UGK in an Odd-Future setting. But anyway “Sunday” is number 2, because Frank on that song is basically André 3000.
Julian: Yay. Near-perfect comparison.
Oscar: And the way the hooks contrast with each other, like Earl framing stopping smoking pot as negative and Frank framing it as positive, is clever and I think shows a depth regarding drugs that not a lot of rappers have, especially about weed. It seems like any rapper can like or dislike any drug except they all have to smoke weed.
Zen: I wholeheartedly agree. Also, just to keep distracting the main topic here, I agree on Vince being pretty good on that song. But that’s the only time I think so. I just think Earl deserves better from guest verse than just typical gangster rap.
Oscar: I’ll disagree with you in one second. “Hive” is my number 3. The beat is classic Odd Future, and it succeeds with the dingy bass, etc. where a lot of their beats fail. Earl’s verse is straight bars, Vince I’ve already said how I feel, but in disagreement with you, I think it was good to have some classic thug rap on there. Gangsta doesn’t always mean bad or unskilled, and I think if the entire album had stuck to the kind of confessional vibe or the traditional odd future vibe in terms of verses it would have gotten too monotonous, so I welcomed that change of pace.
Zen: I would agree, if the album wasn’t already peppered without so much mediocre thug rap, that when you finally got some good gangsta shit, for me, I just didn’t care anymore. I like your definition of “gangster rap” not having to be unskilled
Oscar: “Hive” is an early track though. I didn’t have time yet to be sick of it, because the rest of the thug stuff comes later. Anyway that’s my top 3.
Oscar: What about you guys? I choose Julian next.
Julian: OK. I’ll admit that I kind of fell asleep after “Chum” and woke up at “Molasses.” Lemme know if I’m wrong to have done so.
Oscar: I’ll completely endorse that.
Julian: So my faves now. I’ll go with “Molasses” at number one.
Oscar: Solid choice.
Julian: I like that Earl kicks it off with a pun.
Zen: I like that RZA insists on repeatedly saying “I’LL FUCK THE FRECKLES OFF YOUR FACE BITCH”
Oscar: That was one of the funniest parts of the album.
Julian: I was going to give props to the hook.
Julian: It’s like the feeling of having to wash your ears out with bleach, because that bitch is getting fucked HARD.
Oscar: And he says “we can do it all night,” and I’m kind of unsure of her stamina.
Julian: Yes. Then, I’ll go with “Sunday” because in my opinion it is a great vivid peek into the artist, a twenty year old kid who hates when bitches are bitches. And I’ve personally been off the pots for about a week and my dreams have been out of this world. It’s not as whiny as “Chum.”
Oscar: I’ll cosign that, “Chum” was a little melodramatic.
Zen: Count me in on this business deal. “Sunday” balanced the teen angst very well without making want to give Earl a pacifier.
Julian: And with all due respect to “Burgundy,” which is my favorite song just because of how it sounds and it’s the song I have the most memorized at this point, I have to give props to “Whoa,” even though it’s old.
Oscar: “Whoa” is solid too. That’d be my #4 I think.
Julian: It’s really grown on me. It’s like they recorded it right after “Orange Juice” and then just threw in the intro just to put it on the album.
Oscar: It’s just kind of a classic OF rapping joint.
Julian: I like the ominous piano loop.
Oscar: In the hook, you mean? The weird jazzy thing?
Oscar: Yeah I like that too.
Julian: Bonus: Track I really wanted to like but it hasn’t won me over yet is “Knight.”
Oscar: I feel similarly.
Zen: As do I.
Oscar: It’s a good song but something doesn’t quite do it.
Julian: I really like it but I’d like it better if it wasn’t an outro.
Oscar: Maybe my patience had just worn out by the end of the album.
Julian: I just don’t like songs that cut off while my ears are still asking for more.
Oscar: Better that than it going on too long.
Julian: Good point. That’s always the truth.
Oscar: Anything further, or shall we move on to Zen?
Julian: I’m good.
Zen: Alright then. “Sunday,” for the reasons already stated, and because as far as a full-fledged song goes, it was one of the few which I actually thought people had given enough time and thought to making.
Zen: A lot of the album hit me as mixtape-quality stuff, and “Sunday” stood out in that regard.
Oscar: It’s also always nice to hear someone talk shit to Chris Brown in public.
Zen: Sidebar – what the fuck is Pusha doing on a song with “Breezy?” How on earth did Kanye let that shit happen?
Oscar: Couldn’t tell you. Oh, but dude that’s not even the worst Kanye decision recently. Did you hear about this Miley Cyrus being on a remix of “Black Skinhead?” What kind of sacrilege is that?
Julian: You’re fucking with me.
Zen: I’m gonna assume you’re fucking with Julian and I.
Oscar: I’m 100 percent serious, go look it up. I’ll wait.
Zen: As I want to retain sanity for the rest of this chat, I’ll refrain from doing that till later.
Oscar: Good idea.
Zen: 2nd would be “Whoa.” Yeah it’s old, but like you said, it personifies what Odd Future is all about in a good way, and myself not being a huge OF fan, I was impressed by how much I fucked with it, and have continued to fuck with it since its initial drop.
Zen: “Hive” would be 3rd. Everybody went hard, and I love when Earl goes hard.
Oscar: Word. Something I forgot to say earlier was how much I liked the back-and-forth hook on “Hive.”
Zen: I liked that as well.
Julian: Me too.
Oscar: Cool, so bottom 3?
Zen: Kick it off, Julian
Julian: K. “Guild” without question… Right? We get a minute and a half of a leaned-out Mac Miller, and it’s Earl’s weakest showing lyrically.
Zen: Without a doubt.
Oscar: I’ll agree with your placement but mine is different.
Julian: Then, I’ll go with “Centurion.” I just don’t know if I like it or not, so I’m going to say no.
Oscar: OK yeah.
Julian: I like Earl’s verse. The beat during his verses is really cool.
Oscar: Yeah, much better than the first half.
Julian: It’s like an old school horror film score.
Zen: The way the beats melded felt very half-assed to me, but I agree on the 2nd verse’s coolness.
Oscar: Word to both.
Julian: No doubt. It’s just that if I wasn’t going to listen to the whole song when I started I would have given up.
Zen: That’s fair.
Julian: And I’ll just say that “Pre” isn’t a good intro.
Oscar: No matter what Tyler says on Twitter.
Julian: Yeah. And I’d like for the first verse on the album to come from the artist himself.
Oscar: Definitely a good standard.
Julian: And from all the preview interviews I read, Earl really seemed like he was getting personal with this thing, and even though he definitely did, it did not come through in the intro.
Julian: I will give him credit for coining “Escobarbarian.” That’s one of the best noun-turned-adjective tricks I’ve ever heard.
Oscar: Yeah, it’s a good one.
Julian: So yeah, that’s 3 I think. “Guild,” “Centurion,” and “Pre.”
Zen: Solid choices.
Oscar: Zen, do you want to go or should I?
Zen: I’ll go for it.
Zen: Right off the bat I’m with “Guild.” Not necessarily because it’s the worst thing on the album, but because the fact that Earl decided having Mac Miller on the album was a good idea worries me about his future.
Oscar: As it should.
Julian: Yeah it sounds like advice that Will Ferrell’s character from Zoolander would give. “Dress in garbage, people will love it.”
Zen: Exactly. Plus, because this can never be said enough, FUCK Mac Miller. Anyway, “Sasquatch” is next for me. It did the exact opposite thing that “Whoa” did for me.
Zen: It reminded me why I dislike Tyler most of the time, and although Earl did his usual thing, Tyler had already done his damage. And as I’ve already said, my issue with this album were the features. Last would be “Centurion.” I found it half assed and depressing. When Vince went, “I’m just a nigga” and it sounded like he was going to die in the next 2 years from a shoot out over a bag of doritos, I thoroughly believed him. I would like Earl to have better friends.
Julian: Fun fact, Earl went to New Roads high school for a spell. New Roads is known throughout LA for being a major drug school. They don’t give grades, and celebs send their worthless offspring there to rot without ambition. I’m painting with a broad brush of course, but that’s the stigma. I think that I’d go crazy too.
Oscar: Good point.
Julian: Because when you listen to Earl the album, and remember that he’s 15 or 16 writing this stuff, it’s the product of a sickened mind. Digression over.
Zen: That is a good point. And that’s why I feel that this album should have been Earl showing that he has the capability to move past the pointless wylin’ of Odd Future. But in my eyes, it only hinted at that. Your turn, Hallas.
Oscar: OK. Worst song on the album, for me, “Pre.” I don’t know who SK La’Flare is, I don’t know what favor he did Earl that made him obligated to have him on his album, I really don’t want to learn anything about him. All I know is, he should not be rapping. Go to business school, do something utterly uncreative because obviously that’s what he’s suited for.
Julian: OK, I thought I was out of the loop.
Oscar: Julian, you are definitely out of some loops, but the “who is SK La’Flare” loop is not one of them.
Julian: Thanks, Oscar. You suck.
Zen: I tried to justify Earl picking that niglet to do the intro, and yet I kept coming back to, “motherfucker, really?”
Oscar: Number 2 is “Guild.” As we said, the chipmunk doesn’t belong and should stay off the lean. 3 is “Sasquatch.” It would have bored me if I didn’t feel bad that Tyler is clearly not growing as an artist, while Earl is. How much Earl is growing remains to be seen, but he’s growing.
Zen: Well said. It was sad to hear Tyler go “I still suck” and know that it wasn’t a joke.
Oscar: Anyway, do we have favorite musical and lyrical moments?
Julian: I think that “Chum”’s beat conveys Earl’s message in a more pleasant way than his lyrics.
Oscar: Good way of putting it.
Zen: Very good way.
Julian: I really like the way it sounds, just gonna put that out there. And he does some real shit when he shouts out Complex.
Oscar: Yeah word, and that Craven mahfucka.
Julian: And as an amateur hip-hop head I liked that I got that reference. But yeah I’d love to walk down an empty street to the “Chum” instrumental and then float off into space with that weird ending bit.
Oscar: Yeah, the synth-jazz thing.
Julian: I think that the “Burgundy” interludes were super effective, which is more than I can say for 99 percent of all spoken interludes that exist.
Oscar: The whole “don’t nobody care how you feel” thing?
Oscar: Word, I liked those too.
Julian: I just like “I need BARS, sixteen of ‘em.
Zen: I was about to say that.
Julian: Also the flurry of “nigga” at the end of “Burgundy” is funny because I know people who talk like that and pepper it in 6 times in 3 short lines.
Zen: I was actually a little unimpressed by that. I wanted him to pepper “nigga” at least 12 times
Julian: I take what I can get. I’d have been down for more, don’t get me wrong.
Oscar: Yeah, 12 would have been a feat.
Julian: “20 Wave Caps” and “Knight” seem like song titles that should be on a Joey album. Just saying.
Oscar: I completely agree.
Zen: I wondered if I had skipped to a Joey mixtape when I saw “Knight.”
Julian: “Hoarse” as a song is sort of benign in my opinion, but I like the guitar sample as a change of pace.
Oscar: My favorite lyrical moment was probably “I mean how anal am I gonna be when I’m aiming my gun?”
Zen: Fuck you, Oscar. You always take my favorite moments.
Oscar: And “why’s his mug all bloody? That was a 3 on 1.” and the contradicting hooks on “Sunday.” Musical I’m not sure… maybe the beat on “Burgundy.” I didn’t really have a favorite moment per se.
Zen: I didn’t have a favorite moment, but I really enjoyed and was impressed by the bits of jazz that were hidden in the album here and there.
Oscar: Word. Shall we move on to scores?
Zen: I think so.
Oscar: OK, who first?
Julian: I’ll go. What’s the scale? 10? 5?
Julian: OK. I’ll give it a 6.8. Do we do decimals? Fuck it, I just did.
Oscar: Of course we do decimals.
Zen: We do.
Zen: We’re fucking professionals.
Oscar: “Dewey do decimals.” Library jokes all day son!
Julian: Go home.
Oscar: I am home bitch, what? I’m in my bedroom right now.
Zen: You don’t even deserve to read my score after that, Oscar.
Oscar: Anyway, why 6.8?
Julian: Because I don’t feel bad for being disappointed, but I also don’t feel bad for liking it. I really hated when I was walking my dogs and didn’t really notice the song change between “Sasquatch” and “Uncle Al.” As his first major release since coming home, I expected to have to really search for the ties between pre- and post-Samoa Earl. All of his interviews indicated that he expected to lose a certain part of his fanbase with this, and he very well may have, but not for the reason that he anticipated. I couldn’t really find Pharell’s footprint on this project and he was rumored to be a big part of it. That might be my own oversight though.
Oscar: I’ll agree with that, definitely. You just surprised me by saying he had a big part, I thought he just did “Burgundy.”
Zen: All of that was well said.
Julian: I wanted Frank to put his arm around Earl and say “Lemme sing something that guys can play for their girls.” Honestly, if Earl would have done a legitimate intricate “nice-ish” rap, that would have been a great expansion of his repertoire. All in all it just wasn’t as different as I wanted it to be.
Oscar: Good points all around.
Julian: Thanks, guys. We can move on.
Oscar: OK. I’d give it a 7.
Julian: I was going to give it a 7, I was just thinking it’s more of a D+ than a C in my book.
Zen: Why the .2 higher?
Oscar: I was wary going into it, and over the lead-up to the release I heard some stuff that piqued my interest, but I ultimately didn’t have any previous expectations of Earl so I wasn’t disappointed.
Oscar: On the other hand, I had hoped the beats would be more diverse, as well as the features, I had hoped the songs would be put together better, and I had hoped for a well-thought-out album that mixed personal conflict, emotion, and bars, and I got all of that, but to only a short extent. But also it’s never been a part of Odd Future’s style to take great care in how they put things together, only moderate care. So I say 7.
Julian: I agree with all of that. Odd Future’s uncaring can’t be their calling card with more notoriety. It’s not cute, it comes off as immature in my opinion.
Oscar: I feel the same way.
Zen: Yeah, maybe for a mixtape that’s acceptable, but if you’re asking people to buy your shit, for fucks sake, spend more than an hour mixing your music.
Julian: I wanted a “Super Rich Kids” type cut on this album.
Oscar: I mean punk rock is great and adopting that philosophy in rap is cool, but there’s a reason all the original punk bands formed in 1975 and broke up in 1977 and there hasn’t been a really great one since. Because it’s not sustainable.
Julian: There’s nothing wrong with doing both- make gritty mixtures
Zen: Yeah, but gritty mixtures is different than not giving something enough time, and a lot of the time I think producers confuse the two choices.
Julian: Mixtapes. I meant make gritty mixtapes and evolve in your albums.
Oscar: Yes. Doing both would be optimal.
Zen: Yes it would.
Julian: Great, now that we’ve gotten that down lets solve this whole Israel Palestine thing right quick. We’re on a roll.
Oscar: Yeah, sure. Move ‘em all to Syria, problem solved.
Julian: Delicious. Anyways.
Oscar: Zen what’s your score?
Zen: I feel as if I always winding up being the party killer, but I’m giving it a 6.
Oscar: And how come?
Zen: I’m unimpressed by the “ignant youth” persona OF portrays and as I said earlier, for me to fully enjoy this album it would have had to have been Earl breaking at least partially free of his crew’s stigma.
Oscar: OK, yeah.
Zen: Plus, I agree with Julian on the the album not being as different as it could have. I think Earl has a lot of potential but this wasn’t the best way to show that, and to continue my bitching about the quality of mixing, if you had played this for me and not told me it was an album, I wouldn’t have known it wasn’t a mixtape.
Julian: I have no problem with that.
Zen: Lastly, while I haven’t heard a lot of Earl’s older work (OF hasn’t piqued my interest enough to listen to visit their past work) the idea I had of Earl was not changed at all from hearing this album.
Oscar: He’s a lot less violent. Like seriously a ton.
Julian: Yeah, that can’t be stressed enough.
Zen: OK, I’ll take your word on that. In that case, 6.1.
Oscar: How gracious of you.
Zen: Self-improvement is always a healthy thing. Any last words before I go to eat birthday cake?
Oscar: None for me.
Julian: I’m solid, this was really fun. Thanks again for including me on this guys.
Zen: Julian – yeah, it was a pleasure chatting about Mac Miller’s ugly face.
Oscar: Thanks for joining us, Julian. You’re welcome any time. Oh, actually I do have a few last words.
Zen: Dude. I really want my birthday cake.
Oscar: I’m proud that this took us two hours, and Frankie please rap more because you’re killing it.
Zen: YES. It says something when our favorite line came from someone who wasn’t hosting the album.
Oscar: And Mac Miller, go back to your tree.
Zen: Now. Birthday cake.
Julian: See you soon Oscar, and Zen it was a pleasure talking music with you. Peace guys.
Zen: The same. Hope we do it again man. Have a great night, guys.
Come back next week to read our reviews of DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… and Austra’s Olympia.