posted on: Thursday December 6, 2018
by: Peter Keough ’20 A&E Staff
Thebe Kgositsile, better known by his stage name, Earl Sweatshirt, is a man who values his privacy. The song “Veins” from his new album Some Rap Songs includes the bars “It’s been a minute since I heard applause / It’s been a minute since you seen or heard from me I’ve been swerving calls.” These lyrics reflect the ebb and flow of Kgositsile’s life over the course of his career.
Sweatshirt’s rapid ascent to fame at the age of 16 was tied to his association with former hip-hop collective Odd Future, which included notable members such as Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean. However, this success came with setbacks, as Earl’s celebrity only served to heighten much of his anxiety and mental issues.
Due to the consequences of rising to stardom, Kgositsile’s musical creations have been few and far-between over the years. Between his start in 2010 and present day, he has only released a total of four projects. Between releases, Kgositsile tends to lay low and keep to himself. The title of his 2015 release, I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t Go Outside, perfectly encapsulates this aspect of the rapper’s personality.
Because of this attitude, in conjunction with his releases being so sparse, Kgositsile’s new album was the subject of a massive amount of hype and speculation. With such a nonspecific title and two sparse lead singles that provided little idea of the conceptual focus or direction of the work, Some Rap Songs was somewhat of an enigma prior to its release. After it was released on Friday, November 30, however, it quickly became an extremely divisive topic of conversation for rap fans, and for good reason.
Some Rap Songs sits at a total runtime of 24 minutes, with a track list of 15 different songs. The longest of these songs, “The Mint (feat. Navy Blue)” is a mere two minutes and 45 seconds, and the shortest, “Loosie” has a runtime of only 59 seconds.
Craig Jenkins of Vulture writes that Some Rap Songs “serves compact, brass tacks rap, all hypnotic loops and life lessons, the kind of epiphanies that hit you when you’ve seen too much of the true human condition, in strength and in depravity.” This analysis really gets at the core of what Kgositsile is seeking to convey on his latest venture.
The rapper’s bona fide lyrical focus on the negatives of life that plague him and his psyche are still present on this project. However, this does not mean that the entire thematic focus of his album is on difficulty and despair.
Some Rap Songs portrays a version of Sweatshirt at seemingly the most comfortable we have seen him, as he navigates the 24 minutes of crackling and glitched-out loops of beats with dexterity and sincerity. He covers topics such as his depression, relationships, and even the passing of his father (renowned poet Keorapetse Kgositsile) with ease, creating in full a project that comes off more as a stream-of-consciousness than a series of separate songs.
The album ends with a fuzzy instrumental guitar and brass track entitled “Riot!” which caps off Kgositsile’s personal deliveries with a somewhat sunny and positive outlook on the future, so it seems like things may be looking up.