Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
In what is turning into one of rap’s classic “What if…?” along the lines of “What if Kanye never picked up a mic” or “What if Dr. Dre never made headphones?”, it’s an interesting experiment to wonder “What if Earl never went to Samoa?” It turns out to be a tricky thought exercise, one that leads down a slippery slope of the nature versus nurture debate.
What is more clear, however, is that the experience of being uprooted from his home and planted at the Coral Reef Academy for at-risk youths (“baby jail,” as Earl refers to it) wildly transformed Earl’s trajectory as a rapper and a person.
In interviews Earl appears lucid and self-aware (he calls it “woke”). He’s distanced himself from the antics of the Odd Future crew and stepped out into the spotlight, even if his album title suggests he’s already over it. I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside is a deep, dense and sometimes menacing record, one he never could have made if he had stayed in California.
For an intensely personal record, it is easy to see why Earl was miffed about Sony botching up its release. The video for “Grief” was slated to be the first glimpse of I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. While the release stumbled, the track and its accompanying video deliver, revealing a jaded and scathing Sweatshirt. “All I see is snakes in the eyes of these n—as/ Momma taught me how to read ’em when I look,” he raps on the chorus. Halfway through the track, his flow slows down as the drugs kick in. “I just want my time and my mind intact, when they both gone, you can’t buy ‘em back,” he delivers before the track blurs into an outro from Gary Wilson.
Now armed with a level head and the awareness of life-experiences, Earl’s keeps opening up the floodgates. On “Faucet”, Sweatshirt slows down his flow and digs into his own career for material: “Last autumn the leaves fell, and I raked in a profit. /Disobeying a doctor.” Its chorus contains both complex rhymes and relatable lines.
Elsewhere, on “Mantra” he sets his sight on his ex-girlfriend but his rhymes devolve into an argument anyone can relate to: “My absence of fucks was a problem that we ain’t never really get to solved…Tryna keep it calm, but I snap at you./ Now you’re taking all your property back.” As with any breakup, particularly one involving someone in the spotlight like Earl, no one is the winner and everyone comes up a little worse for the wear.
And that’s just the first half. For the whole 30 minutes of runtime, Earl digs deep. Thankfully, he has enough material to keep his limber mind busy. His lyrics are as cunning and cutting as ever and they’re super tightly. It’s a dense record that rewards multiple listens.
While the album is certainly dark in tenor, its most vivid moments are brilliant. On “DNA”, Earl’s friend Nakel drops by shortly after dropping acid – only to receive the news his best friend died. The wounds are fresh and we practically hear him dealing with his grief in real-time. It’s a moment and it is almost disturbingly real and the track has a vital place on the album. It helps codify exactly what Earl is trying to capture throughout the record. This is my story as of now, as I see it. This is how I’m dealing with it. You deal with it in your own way.
One can only imagine the shocks (shell, culture) of returning home from an extended stay in Samoa, and not only are your friends super famous, but you are a celebrity in your own right. The challenge to come back and continue to evolve, knowing he couldn’t possibly please everybody. And even though we are only getting a partial glimpse into his life, it is fascinating to watch him navigate turbulent waters in a fishbowl. It will be fascinating to watch him develop as not only a rapper but as a person. Formerly a kid to watch, we should still keep our eye on him, but now only to chart his star’s steady ascension.
4.5 out of 5
You can purchase Earl Sweatshirt’s I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside on iTunes.