Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
Record Label: Columbia Records
Release Date: August 20 2013
Prior to hearing Earl Sweatshirt’s debut record Doris, the only member of rap collective Odd Future that I was familiar with was Frank Ocean. In a way, that makes a lot of sense, because Ocean is an R&B/pop singer (who does rap occasionally, and his appearance on Doris is a rap verse), and I enjoy those genres a lot. Ocean’s debut record Channel Orange actually came out on my birthday last year, but I didn’t really listen to the entire record until last fall. I wish I picked it up sooner, but I digress. I will say, however, that the moment I heard Earl Sweatshirt on the track “Super Rich Kids” (which is one of my absolutely favorite tracks on the record), I knew he was something special. Last year, I was not much into hip-hop, and I honestly did not know much about Odd Future, other than it was fronted by rapper Tyler, The Creator, whom I’m not too familiar with, either, although I do want to listen to his records. Frank Ocean was getting a lot of buzz as well, and frankly, still has that buzz. His sophomore record is one that many people are eagerly awaiting. Next in line for their debut record was Earl Sweatshirt. He’s another one of the more prominent members of the group, and for good reason. He’s a wonderful rapper with a lot of skill and fantastic wordplay, even if his lyrics aren’t the greatest themselves. He’s got a lot of charisma, especially on Doris. From what I’ve heard, his lyrics were a lot more brash and a lot more vulgar, dare I say. This record plays that down quite immensely, and lets listeners into his inner psyche. Personally, I love it when rappers (or just artists in general) let the listeners into their minds to see what they’re thinking. So needless to say, some lyrics on this record are quite dark, and certainly not as fun-loving as Earl’s contributions to Odd Future. That’s okay, though, because I really like it. There are certainly some “bragging” lyrics on the record, and some very honest and just straightforward lyrics, but they’re enjoyable as well. Honestly, this is one of those records you will need to see the lyrics to really understand it. Heck, maybe even going to Rap Genius will help. Thankfully the website exists, because without it, I’d have a hard time to figure out what some rappers are saying. On Doris, there’s definitely a lot that Earl is talking about, whether it’s about his father never being there for him, his grandmother passing away, or just “lighter” songs about drugs, girls, and sex, there’s a lot to take from this album.
If there is one criticism I have with this album, it’s not Earl’s flow, or his lyrics. It’s the overall sound of the album. I know that sounds weird, because I love the sound of the record. The beats and instrumentation are “anti-pop,” if you will. There are hardly any hooks or one-liners that really stick out. This is an album that needs to be listened to all the way through, and I feel like Earl did that on purpose. It’s a very “chilled out” album, and Earl’s the main focus of it, which is how it should be. The beats are very chilled out as well, and very atmospheric. They’re enjoyable, but never truly become the most important part of the album. What I don’t like, though, is that every song does sound quite similar to one another. The fact it’s an “anti-pop” record is its best strength, but it’s also its greatest weakness. The songs kind of blend together, which is nice if you want to listen to the whole album, and while the lyrics are all different, obviously, the songs themselves just fade into one another. I like the album, and in fact, I love it, but after awhile, the songs do blend together. The one thing that do keep the songs interesting are the guest spots on the record. Most of them are from rappers I’m not too familiar with, such as Domo Genesis, Vince Staples, and RZA, among others. The few I am familiar with are Mac Miller, Tyler the Creator and Frank Ocean. Frank raps a verse or two on a song, and he does fairly well. I would’ve liked it if he sang, but that’s okay with me. Regardless, Doris is one heck of a record. Despite not being familiar with Earl too much, this is a great starting point. From what I’ve heard, this earlier material is much more vulgar, as I mentioned, so it’s really awesome to see him mellow out and make a record with a lot of introspective moments. I’m certainly excited to see whatever Earl does next.