I first found out about Earl Sweatshirt when an acquaintance put me onto the video for "Earl" in the summer of 2010. You didn't know what to make of it at first: the filth, the swagger, the grit in the beat, the unreasonably accomplished production values, and the miles upon miles of bars. It all just seemed to spring completely formed out of nowhere. Earl was the kind of arresting, singular release many artists spend a career in search of, the kind whose buzz a two year detention overseas couldn't quench. Sweatshirt returned a little older and a little wiser in 2012, and detailed all he'd learned on his Columbia Records debut Doris, ditching the rape-and-pillage mentality of Earl but not its cascading waves of dense wordplay and hairpin turns from snarling wit to world-weary, threadbare profundity.
Earl is one of the brightest lyrical talents of his generation and also one of the youngest; his prodigious mic skills have taken him from near-total obscurity to international renown among Odd Future's fiercely loyal fan network and beyond. As such we're going to take a look at some of the tongue-twisting one-liners that got him there, from devastating snark on early solo releases to the more poignant self-expression of the post-detention material and murder bars on guest verses along the way. We've picked ten, but feel free to jump into the comments here to let us know what you think we missed.