Earl Sweatshirt's 'Some Rap Songs' is a poignant, chaotic listen

Thebe Kgositsile is up against the world.

The rapper calls himself Earl Sweatshirt and for years he’s been hip hop’s black sheep. When he hits the mic, the rapper has always weaved thoughtful prose, fitting so much into very little. In fact, if you listen to his entire studio album collection, the runtime is shorter than Migo’s Culture II.

At a time when rappers have their eyes on streaming numbers, Earl would rather speak his mind. At only 25 minutes, Some Rap Songs is a heavy ride.

“Tryna refine this shit, I redefined myself,” says Earl on ‘Nowhere2go’, plucking out a central theme of the album. The rapper lost two close family members, his father, AKA poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, passed away in January and later, jazz legend Hugh Masekela. Much of what is heard on Some Rap Songs is Earl getting everything off his mind while it’s still raw.

Meanwhile, the beats are so chopped and screwed with that their samples are sometimes incomprehensible. The backing tracks of ‘The Bends’, ‘Cold Summers’ and ‘Peanut’ are decimated into oblivion. It creates an anxious, depressing atmosphere that pulls you into Earl’s world right from the start.

It’s chaotic, but it’s a controlled chaos that takes cues from Madlib and MF Doom’s classic Madvillainy. Earl picks apart the thoughts surrounding family, friends, and his own mental state. ‘Redwater’ takes on the estranged relationship that Earl had with his father. On the flip-side, ‘Ontheway!’ takes advice from the rapper’s mother urging him to not play with his scabs. The track ‘Playing Possum’ reunites Earl’s parents in a spoken word passage featuring their voices. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, Earl offers off the cuff, genuine verses that don’t stop for anyone. No catchy hooks, no instrumental bridges. It’s only you and Earl Sweatshirt.