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Earl Sweatshirt-SICK! ALBUM REVIEW

Written Before Listen

Earl Sweatshirt has returned for his first album of the decade. It wasn’t like he was quiet either. Earl Sweatshirt has gotten numerous feature sports in the past 3 years and after Some Rap Songs came out, he has had somewhat of a career renaissance. His post-rap style has influenced many abstract hip hop musicians to do their take on it yet Earl Sweatshirt is the forefather of it. Even at 27, he is considered highly influential. Despite that, he is here with a new album and from the promotional singles (most specifically “2010”) he might be here with a new sound. Without further ado, let’s get into it.


As a producer, Earl is nowhere to be found. I don’t know if he gave up on producing but he gives most of the opportunities to Black Noi$e who has had previous contributions to Earl’s music before as well as Zeelooperz. One thing that I like about his production is that it’s trappy and cloudy but it’s also rooted in abstract hip hop and sampling. Unlike “Some Rap Songs”, the beats that Black Noi$e creates are dense, trippy, and detailed. Alongside that, we get two beats from The Alchemist, and like usual, he delivers with two minimal dreamless beats with the tracks “Old Friend” and “Lye”. On “Lobby (int)” we get IDM cult-favorite Samiyam to create a psychedelic and wonky trap beat. Overall, I think Earl’s appeal is devoted to the lyrics, but this time around, he makes sure the beats make people stay.


If you know Earl, you know that his lyrics are advanced in comparison to most rappers. His lyrics are layered with meanings, his rhyme schemes are dense and complex and his delivery is deadpan and lethargic. With tracks like “Tabula Rasa”, “Old Friend” and “Lye”, Earl comes with that usual style and does what he usually does with strength. On the other hand, with tracks like “2010”, “Vision” and “Lobby”, he flows on trap beats, continuing his lyrical prowess. Earl proves once again that he is one of the strongest rappers of all time.


This album is low-key a half and half album stylistically. 5 of these tracks are drumless and sample-based and knowing Earl’s past work, this is in his comfort zone. On the other hand, He does these tracks with a little more finesse and without the lo-fi and surreal production aesthetics. It’s similar to some songs off of that Boldy James & Alchemist project last year. The other 5 tracks are psychedelic and cloudy trap bangers with some experimental hip-hop aesthetics. Tracks like “Sick!” and “2010” are less like “Some Rap Songs” and more like Blue Flame era Lil B with its DIY approach and cloudy west coast flavored bounce. It might not be as ambitious as the stuff he did on Some Rap Songs, but I’m still glad to see Earl going in this direction.

Subject Matter

Now, let’s talk about the lyrics. Not to forget that Earl hasn’t dropped an album in almost 4 years. Since then, he dropped an EP in 2019, done multiple features, and dropped some occasional singles. With that being said, with the context and album title, you know that the subject matter will occasionally relate to the pandemic, and with the tracks “Tabula Rasa” and the title track, he mentions exactly that. Alongside that, he does do a lot of reflecting on this album. On the track “2010” where he reminisces of times in his childhood plus the beginning of his fame. Alongside that, there is the track “Titanic” where Earl reminisces about that time he was sent away due to his parents not wanting him to be around his Odd Future bandmates. I like seeing this direction from him lyrically from him. It’s less depressing and blank but it still has a message and retrospect to it.


One thing that I have against this album is its length. It’s barely 24 minutes. I could watch a full episode of Family Guy for the same length as this album. On the other hand, it isn’t that big of a deal. As long as it’s a good set of songs, it’s enjoyable. With that being said, I’m happy that this is the direction Earl seems to be going towards.


God damn, the past three Earl Sweatshirt albums have been great and I’m glad we got this album right away for the year. It might not be as dark as “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside” or as ambitious as “Some Rap Songs” but no Earl record has been as hypnotic and psychedelic as “SICK!”.



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