sweet as the scratch

earl sweatshirt's los angeles sound

Earl Sweatshirt’s second album, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, begins with an organ that sounds straight out of a commercial from the 1960s trying to convince listeners to move to a new subdivision in sunny Southern California even though the company running the subdivision is crooked and the neighborhood will be in poverty by the 80s. Earl’s music specializes in the decay of (sub)urban America. He knows the difference between real and fake and he’s happy to share his feelings on the subject.

If you asked anyone what Los Angeles rap in 2015 sounds like, they would probably mention Kendrick Lamar, Tyga or DJ Mustard. But Earl Sweatshirt exists outside of the simplistic "conscious vs. ratchet" binary and his new album is quintessential Los Angeles music. I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside represents the narcissism and stoner boredom of west-coast millennials. It’s music that could only be created by someone coming of age in Los Angeles at our present moment.

Earl’s lyricism is reminiscent of Charles Bukowski, who also made his home in Los Angeles. Both writers are distinguished in their ability to vividly portray simultaneous disgust and entertainment with the depressing and annoying people and situations that surround them.

Earl produced his entire album, save for "Off Top," produced by Odd Future cohort Left Brain. It’s not super impressive production, but it successfully creates a mood that revels in somber loneliness and sets the perfect stage for Earl’s curmudgeonly verses. The production is mostly slow-paced, plodding drums with some muffled, jazzy chords.

Vince Staples and Earl once again work well together, with Earl giving possibly his most confident, bravado verse of the album (much like "Hive," on Doris) on the exclamation point of the album finale, "Wool."

Beyond Earl’s impressive writing and creation of a uniquely desolate, yet charming sound, he’s a hell of a rapper. While his wordplay, free association, off-the-wall fantasies and internal rhymes are a lot of fun to listen to, this album shows Earl doesn’t have to rely on those tricks as much as he did in his past work. Earl’s keen sense of when to drop a tongue-in-cheek statement and when to make a broad, deeply personal one (often back-to-back so you have to rewind to make sure you heard it correctly) is on display on his new album. It’s barely longer than 30 minutes, but the album doesn’t rush—it just presents a personal snapshot at its own pace. And that snapshot is of a kid who finds just about everything in his life off-putting and frustrating. He sounds "over it," and if that’s not Los Angeles, I don’t know what is.

Listen below for some of my favorite tracks from the album:

0:00 "Huey"- Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
1:51 "Mantra" - Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
5:47 "Grief" - Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
9:52 "DNA" - Earl Sweatshirt feat. Na’Kel – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
13:44 "Wool" - Earl Sweatshirt feat. feat Vince Staples – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

-- Bert

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