Don’t go outside, grab a Sweatshirt
Matthew Munhall | Thursday, March 26, 2015
When the Los Angeles rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All first broke out into the mainstream nearly five years ago, the group garnered attention as much for their group dynamic as their outrage-garnering antics. Even as the group’s profile rose, its members rarely collaborated with anyone outside their inner circle and continued to litter their music with inside jokes. When they performed together, the collective inspired an anarchical energy that gained them legions of young Supreme-clad fans.
Yet over the past two years, Odd Future has drifted apart as its members have increasingly pursued their own projects. The group’s ringleader Tyler, the Creator admitted in a FADER cover story last year that he and rapper Earl Sweatshirt, who were once as close as siblings, had grown apart and hadn’t collaborated on new music since 2013.
Earl’s second studio album, “I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t Go Outside,” which was released Sunday evening, is the first hint of a post-Odd Future career. The album finds Earl working largely without the input of his Odd Future collaborators, save a guest verse from Vince Staples and a song produced by Left Brain. It’s Earl’s most insular work to date, a dark album on which he sounds depressed and paranoid.
“This is the first thing that I’ve said that I fully stand behind, like the good and the bad of it,” Earl told NPR’s “Microphone Check” this week. “I’ve never been this transparent with myself or with music.”
Earl’s singular vision is all over “I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t Go Outside” which streamlines the moody, downbeat sound he established on “Doris,” his major label debut. While “Doris” featured production credits from Tyler, RZA, BadBadNotGood and The Neptunes, this time around Earl largely handles production himself. Working under the pseudonym randomblackdude, Earl is credited as the sole producer on nine of the 10 tracks on “I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t Go Outside.” His productions are moody, hazy affairs with droning synths and muted drums that mirror the late night introspection.
Earl’s understated production serves his lyricism, which focuses on coping with a newfound modicum of fame and complicated relationships with an ex, friends and family. Lead single “Grief,” which Earl called a “a final lament and epilogue,” best encapsulates his pensive mood and seeming agoraphobia. “I ain’t been outside in a minute / I been living what I wrote,” he explains over the track’s dark, bass-heavy production. On the track’s second verse, Earl’s slows down to a lethargic flow as he rattles off the fleeting thoughts that come to him under the influence. After three minutes exploring the various ways he manages his anxiety, he concludes in a whisper, “I just want my time and my mind intact / When they both gone, you can’t buy ‘em back.”
Earl continues to delve deep into his psychology throughout “I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t Go Outside.” On “Mantra” he describes the overwhelming intensity of his fans, “Who you can’t get mad at, when they want to pound a pic / ‘Cause they the reason that the traffic on the browser quick.” The track’s distorted guitar riff gives way to silence, echoing Earl’s own desire to retreat from the limelight. He even takes shots at his peers on “Faucet,” rapping, “I feel like I’m the only one pressing to grow upwards.”
Clocking in at just under half an hour, “I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t Go Outside” nonetheless manages to encapsulates Earl’s worldview due to his dense emotional lyricism. While nothing on the record quite reaches the heights of “Hive” or “Sunday,” it’s his most personal work, both in creation and content, to date. Earl may have retreated from the outside world, but he brings listeners into an immersive world of his own on “I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t Go Outside.”