Rapper Earl Sweatshirt has made his name, in large part, on scarcity. Even when he was profiled in The New Yorker, the story was about his absence from the game. The phrase most closely associated with his name is probably, still, “Free Earl.”
Sweatshirt is free on his first official album Doris, one of hip-hop’s most anticipated this year, but he still stays somewhat scarce. Perhaps this is deliberate: He doesn’t show up until halfway through the LP’s first song, a tactic he repeats several times—we’re here to hear Earl, but the album is full of guests who lead off many tracks. Or perhaps he’s still reluctant to come back: On the second track, “Burgundy,” the song he chose for his TV debut on Fallon, he worries about having to lay down bars in the midst of depression and the passing of his grandmother.
Increasingly, this is his style: dark and personal, with lines that fold in on themselves with dense wordplay, unexpected turns of phrase, and internal rhymes. It’s a lot to take in on one listen—even over Doris’ lean, Wu Tang-inspired production—but now that the man is finally back, it’s worth a try.