I Don't Like S**t, I Don't Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt
Since the 2010 video for “Earl” introduced a majority of us to the Los Angeles rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (Fun fact: May 26 marks five years since the video was first uploaded to Vimeo. Feel old yet?) via an unsettling and borderline disgusting (yet still strangely charismatic) simulated drug binge, rap fans have been checking for Earl Sweatshirt. His verbal dexterity impressed the stick-in-the-mud lyrical purists, and the combination of skater punk ethos and instant controversy around OF and anyone remotely associated with it propelled him to the front of people’s interests.
Then, he disappeared. Shipped off to a boarding school in American Samoa by his mother only to be found by writers at this very website (a fact that didn’t exactly sit well with him, as you might remember). Earl came home a star, and since 2012’s “Chum” he’s been telling anyone who would listen that he didn’t sign up for any of this.
Three years and one critically acclaimed full-length later, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside finds a more mature Earl, a 21-year-old basically dealing with normal things like losing grandparents, changes from so-called friends (“You know you famous when the niggas that surround you switch/And if they hated in a passive tense/And now they hound your dick/And you ain't ask for this”), and dealing with fame (“Now you surrounded with a gaggle of 100 fucking thousand kids/Who you can't get mad at, when they want a pound or pic/’Cause they the reason that the traffic on the browser quick/And they the reason that the paper in your trousers thick.”) (On second thought, maybe that last one isn’t exactly normal for the average 21-year-old. Regardless, you couldn’t pay me to be 21 again.)
Make no mistake, he’s still got bars—“Bitch, if yo’ nigga had Supreme, we was the reason he copped it/And nowadays, I'm on the hunt for mirrors to box with/And some pretty bitches that ain’t trip if it’s a hit and run/I got the gold ’cause I don’t do the crying bro/She Mario, I’m tryna’ keep the whinin’ to a minimum/Piggies come, bet I’m splittin’ quicker than I finish rum/Find me some Indica, nuggets on my fingers and my shirt like they was chicken crumbs”—but this time, it appears that the intent is clear: Leave me the fuck alone. Even the production feels like going to a friend’s house only to find a doormat on the porch that says “Go Away.” Self-produced almost entirely under the moniker RandomBlackDude, I Don’t Go Outside is a minefield of gloomy thumpers. Nothing stands out to the point of distinction sonically, but that might be the point. This album sounds like the diary of a man who retreated into himself and now chooses to share his darkness with the rest of the class.
Even the production feels like going to a friend’s house only to find a doormat on the porch that says “Go Away.”
Throughout his entire career, Earl has been very upfront with how he feels about things. Most recently, he lashed out at Columbia Records for screwing up the deployment of this album online, when the track listing and various other items were placed on iTunes instead of the video for “Grief” as requested. This new incarnation of Earl Sweatshirt excites me. Ditching the shock rap that made him famous long ago, you get the sense that he approaches rap as a craft, making tweaks and buffing edges. The whole thing fits his output to date when you think about it; while other rap acts are content to be flashy press hounds, Earl’s entire aesthetic is reminiscent of a coder, building a world where things are well-executed and efficient (the whole album clocks in at 30 minutes, a trait I sincerely hope becomes a thing), but far from perfect. The kinks are part of the charm. I Don’t I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside is a glimpse into what to expect next from Earl Sweatshirt. He’s just trying to make a world where for once, he doesn’t have to be anything that he’s not.
Ernest Wilkins is a writer living in Chicago. Follow him @ErnestWilkins.