Greatest Hip Hop Artists of the Decade: Earl SweastshirtMcgillacuddy NOTE: I had to revise the part about Doris multiple times because, for whatever reason, the system kept cutting most of it out for no reason. I think it had something to do with the word "Doris" being italicized.
Earl is an exciting artist to talk about. He is, by far, my favorite member of Odd Future, but for a lot of reasons that the other members don't tie into. Odd Future has been known to be one of the most controversial Hip Hop collectives in history, as the members of the group have conjured up some of the most offensive and uncaring lyricism that can easily give classic Eminem a run for his money. Although, the question remains: what was really the whole point of it? If you're going to be throwing around violent, homophobic, and sexually degenerate themes, then it can only appeal to the most uncaring audience out there: teens and young adults. In this case, pretty much anyone who wants edgy material, and what better edgelords are there than teens and young adults using racial and homophobic slurs in an online session of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2?
Here's a fact that a lot of people may overlook or even disagree with for that matter: controversy sells. It has been a staple in Hip Hop throughout its history, from as early as N.W.A. and Eminem to as late as Kanye West and XXXTENTACION. The only difference between then and now is that being edgy in music just for the sake of it is a gateway to easy publicity, but it all depends on how its done. Odd Future could've been easily disregarded as just a group full of tryhards, but the group had a style to keep them afloat in the music business, and for several of these members, their separate styles led to ultimate success.
One of these members was none other than Earl Sweatshirt. Releasing his first mixtape, EARL, in 2010 when he was just 16 years old already presented good things to come for a kid who had the balls to say whatever the hell he wanted to. EARL was heavily unique in its own way. While it didn't stray far from the vile lyricism featuring mostly rape and murder, Earl's cutting-edge performance and the unusual instrumentals made it an incredible feat of fearlessness. The mixtape is highly unsettling and somewhat gross, but Earl's personality toughens the listener so much that these cons eventually end up becoming enjoyable to listen to, even if you're not all that proud of yourself for actually enjoying it in the end. Earl had his style and flow completely set based off of a single feat, but this high that he once had eventually began to dive further and further into a world that he seems to be still fighting now today.
3 years after EARL, Earl released his debut studio album, Doris, and at first listen, you can tell that something was completely off about him. Earl no longer had that aggressive and fearless attitude of his younger self. Instead, his rapping sounded much heavier. His flow is much slower and deep and the instrumentals of every track are experimental but incredibly dark. Also, Earl's lyricism was no longer edgy. Instead, it was truthful and introspective. Earl simply sounded like a completely different person, but as a result, Doris is a masterpiece. The entirety of the album was completely unique both instrumentally and lyrically, and, unlike EARL, it was convincing. This release paved a way for Earl to progress futher into success as a rapper to keep an eye on. Although, this darkened personality he has inherited would only fall deeper and deeper with each album released.
In March of 2015, Earl released his follow-up album: I Don't Like Sh*t, I Don't Go Outside. giving an unsettling aura of hopelessness with murky beats and and a seemingly even more depressed Sweatshirt. Also, it seemed as if Earl was sporting little to no effort in trying to give listeners insight into his perspective. It felt almost as if Earl was on the verge of giving up, as where the track "DNA" was the last good fight he had left in him. Once again, though, this album is absolutely fantastic. While it's entirely dark, it's mellow and can be tough to sit through for some as it may result in boredom, but Earl's lyricism is the main highlight.
In November, 2018, Earl released his 3rd album, Some Rap Songs. This album is filled with tracks that mostly don't even break the 2 minute mark and all sound like they were poorly recorded. The tracks also included choppy and distorted instrumentals that simply glowed throughout the album. Again with Earl's personality, it's even lower than before here. On some tracks, it seems so low that he is on the verge of sobbing. Regardless of its short runtime and even more hopeless sound, this is easily the most impactful album Earl has released yet. The instrumentals are unusually gorgeous and Earl's performance is astounding.
It all seemed like the lower Earl was getting throughout his career, the better his music became. Every single one of his projects have received widespread acclaim from both critics and general audiences. I personally think that Earl Sweatshirt was one of the most unique and thought-provoking artists of the 2010s. Everything about his music speaks to me and I suddenly begin heavily caring for someone I've never met before in my life. I actually saw him perform at the Smoker's Club Festival 2018, and you could tell that he did seem to be at a very low point in his life. I can only hope that he's okay, because he has talent that no other rapper could ever copy.