if you follow earl sweatshirt at all, you already know his story. when the young hip-hop prodigy finally returned from isolation in early 2012, his collective immediately experienced a void being filled; earl’s verse on “oldie” completely steals the show, and his guest spot on frank ocean’s “super rich kids” was consistently referenced in year-end roundups discussing channel orange. three minutes of music, along with a brief song called “home,” was all we got from earl in the year following his return to civilization.
then “chum” dropped. the minor key piano loop complemented earl’s brooding, deeply personal rap; gone were the days of “epar” and all of the other musings that permeated earl’s stream of consciousness when he was fifteen. “chum” underscores the feeling of abandonment earl has concerning his father, who hasn’t been a consistent presence in his life since earl was six, and foreshadows the depressing, self-aware themes that are found throughout doris.
for the first half of this year, we were teased with news of earl’s proper debut album. the title was announced long before a release date or tracklist, but earl was mum on the rest of the details. pieces slowly fell into place and more songs were released, like the pitch-shifted “guild” featuring mac miller and the boisterous “whoa,” with earl’s godfather tyler, the creator rasping the hook. but it was “hive,” a collaborative with longtime odd future compatriots vince staples and casey veggies, that proved to me that doris had true potential. the opening line, “promised heron i’d put my fist up after i get my dick sucked / a quick buck, maybe a gold chain,” solidifies earl’s jaded mentality about the rap game. the ominous, minimal bass line that snakes throughout the song provides a foundation for earl to flesh out his thoughts and to demonstrate that his wordplay and flow is just as solid as it’s ever been, and that it’s even evolved.
earl’s album has been one of 2013’s most-anticipated releases, and he knew it. despite releasing a third of the material on doris prematurely, earl teases the listeners who will actually be playing the album from start to finish. on “pre,” guest artist sk la’flare dominates the track for over a minute and a half before earl finally arrives to take control. and then he runs the show. across doris, earl’s verses are lazy in appearance but highly calculated in actuality. from the depressing tones on “burgundy” to the cheeky references to the earl of yesteryear on “whoa,” doris shows all the potential from earl’s self-titled mixtape fully realized. i can’t wait to see what he does next.