With each new release, Earl Sweatshirt puts the #FreeEarl movement farther and farther behind him. While most artists cling to the platform upon which they gained fame, he only sees those two words as a constant reminder of his past struggles with his mother.
During rap collective Odd Future’s meteoric rise to fame in 2011, Sweatshirt was sent by his mother to a boy’s camp in Samoa. In response to Earl’s absence, the rest of the collective started a social media campaign called “Free Earl.” The fan base became hostile toward Earl’s mother and since returning to America he has done everything in his power to shed the slogan and recreate his image as an artist instead of an absence. Sweatshirt has been immensely successful in this search for himself, he has put out a pair of lonely, lurching albums which have helped separate him from his horror-core-esque beginnings with Tyler the Creator and company.
Just a month after releasing his sophomore album, “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside,” Earl Sweatshirt continued his journey of introspection with the release of a mini-EP “Solace.” LINK On the new release, Sweatshirt foregoes his usual lyrical deftness for a more stream-of-consciousness form of expression. His verses are mumbled as if they’re for no one but himself. However, in a recent interview with NPR he makes it clear that they’re for at least one other person: his mother.
“We set up a little in my house and I did a little project real, real fast. … It’s more for my mom,” Sweatshirt said.
The speed at which he wrote and produced this is apparent and endearing. The almost-ethereal production of the suite meanders quietly from woozy keyboards to lo-fi beats and samples to pseudo-cinematic sound effects. Sweatshirt splits the difference between bars and spoken-word over the unique patchwork and allows the music to breathe around each sentiment.
At only 10-minutes long, the brevity of the project speaks not only to the abbreviated thoughts and emotions of Sweatshirt but the generation in which he was raised. At just 21 years old, Sweatshirt has grown up in an age where all of the world’s distractions are in the palm of your hand. A shorter release isn’t a matter of condensed content but a matter of efficiency, a matter of keeping attention.
“Solace” even feels beautifully hasty in the way it was released. It was simply posted to YouTube and shared on Sweatshirt’s Twitter. No music video, no promo push, hell, there’s not even a traditional cover. This speaks to its off-the-cuff nature as well as the state of recording itself.
Earl Sweatshirt, an artist signed to a major label, wrote and produced “Solace” and gave it directly to his fans via a completely free platform. The release isn’t on iTunes or Spotify, there are no physical copies in Best Buy. This EP, from the lo-fi production to its content to its release, is an organically personal and personable statement of unpretentious creativity.