Album Review: Earl Sweatshirt, ‘Doris’

Written by Matt Agosta

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Ever since Tyler, The Creator’s sick minded crew Odd Future hit the internet, they’ve been captivating fans through music, television, and social media. As much as we loved Tyler, Domo, and Frank, no one really got our attention like Earl did. He spit incredibly complex bars with themes along the lines of murder and rape while only being sixteen years of age. When I first heard his album Earl, I couldn’t believe he could say such horrid things on top of spitting like a full-grown artist. Clearly this sixteen-year-old kid had it going for him and it was only a matter of time before he caught hip-hop’s attention. Unfortunately by the time he did, he was gone. Earl spiraled out of control and his mother sent him to Samoa to correct his behavior. Since then Tyler and the rest of Odd Future have dropped albums and sold out shows all over the world, all while we patiently waited for Earl to make his return. Earl finally came back last year. Now he’s ready to drop his debut album, Doris, and take the spot in the game he rightfully deserves.

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The hype for Doris has been through the roof, making it almost impossible for Earl to top the impact of his first album. It is true that Doris is not as good, but the album manages to bring Earl and the rest of the fans back to reality. He refuses to be the rap savior that everyone wants him to be, focusing on making a project that fits who he is at this moment. Earl cut out the murder and rape from his lyrics and makes a more personal project, while still keeping the grittiness we’ve come to love from Earl. His first single “Chum” gives us our first personal take on his life from what got him to Samoa until now. “Burgundy” is the Pharrell produced track focused on telling the listeners he’s not ready for too much fame right now and he’s going to stick to spitting ill raps and being him. “Sunday” features Frank Ocean and is another insight on Earl’s personal life where he explores his struggles with relationships. All of the areas covered are new territory for Earl and helps us see him as a regular rapper, not a rap savior.

Earl has changed in more ways than one more but one thing is still true, Earl can rap his ass off. He’s still ripping the flow we’ve come to love, but this time around he gets even more lyrical. “Centurion” gets particularly lyrical when Earl and fellow L.A. rapper Vince Staples spit about a robbery story that mirrors their lives as rappers. The second single “Hive” is one of the tracks that mirrors his older music but still shows his progression as a MC. Earl’s older music is felt in other tracks like “Sasquatch” and “Whoa,” both produced and featured by Odd Future leader Tyler, The Creator. “Whoa” sounds like the anthem for Earl’s return and “Sasquatch” sounds like the sequel to “Assmilk” off Tyler’s Bastard, but a small step down.

One of the biggest differences between this album and Earl is the production. Earl was fully produced by Tyler, and Doris is mostly produced by Earl, which is something we haven’t seen him do. It gives Earl and Doris their own unique sound and shows the young MC’s progression as an artist and not just a rapper. The beats aren’t game changing and it is obvious which tracks established producers produced, but his own beats match well with his flow and the tracks’ direction. Hopefully Earl will continue producing and progressing his sound further and further.

Doris is not the album we wanted to hear when Earl came back. We wanted to hear Tyler behind the boards with Earl going off and being violent like the old days. Instead we got a much different album that has Earl behind the entire thing; a happy surprise we all did not expect. His personality is all over the album and gives us a new take on an artist we still really don’t know much about. The album doesn’t have the focus of a single theme like Tyler’s Wolf, but it does give a much needed insight into Earl Sweatshirt, the rap savior who could give two fucks about what we want.

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