A while back, in an interview with Pitchfork, Earl Sweatshirt spoke on his departure from Colombia records. He remarked, “I’m excited to be free because then I can do riskier shit”. This was after the release of his magnum opus, Some Rap Songs, which showcased a more evolved Earl in regards to lyricism and production. This was also after the sudden passing of his father, acclaimed South African poet, Keorapetse Kgositsile. It’s no surprise that the Golf Wang affiliate would indeed depart from an adolescent mind state, into an even more bleak and eroding master lyricist that has become a saviour of the underground rap scene. And it’s no surprise that his new EP, Feet Of Clay, is by far the riskiest release in the artist’s discography to date.
The first time you hear Feet Of Clay, you’re smothered in the sludge of Earls world. The low fidelity jagged beats and loops sound off, the rapping is sluggish, the flow is almost spoken word and the lyricism intertwined around depressing realisations and bizarre symbolism. It’s all of these things, and it’s Earl at his most vulnerable. From the many ‘Earlisms’ (‘my noose is golden’, ‘braids bought out my eyes’) that are scattered around this project, topics that Earl continues to deal with include his dependence on alcohol in tracks such as ‘OD’ and the loneliness he felt through his fathers passing on ‘El Toro Combo Meal’. Fellow rappers Mach Hommy and Mavi contribute to the macabre image Earl creates with a broken easel, adding in their own distorted memories of dealing with loss and pain.
Approaching this project as an Earl fan since 2013 will be quite jarring for some listeners. If you go in suspecting homonym after homonym, then prepare to be disappointed. What you can suspect is a rapper who has grown out of his old shell and has left the nest with broken wings. And trust me, after listening to ‘East’, which may be one of the years best and unsettling songs, the underground saviour has definitely found solace with his current musical output.
Words by Evan Hodgkinson
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