At the beginning of the year, Earl Sweatshirt’s debut album, Doris, found its way onto almost every single list of anticipated albums. The buzzy younger brother from Odd Future, long hailed as the group’s premier lyricist, had led a life shrouded in mystery since he first emerged with his debut mixtape Earl in 2010, disappearing to Samoa when his mother thought he was getting into too much trouble.
But his return has led to a resumption of the hype, and his verse on Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange last year, as well as dark, brooding singles like “Whoa” and the emotional “Chum” helped fuel the fire. And now, with Doris streaming online and its release less than 24 hours away, XXL spoke to some of the key people who had a hand in creating the album, from Odd Future cohort Domo Genesis to fellow young rappers Vince Staples and Casey Veggies to The Neptunes’ Chad Hugo, digging into the nuts and bolts of the making of Earl’s official debut.
Through these conversations, a few things came to light—the album was largely written and recorded immediately after Earl returned from Samoa over a year ago, meaning many songs have been tweaked and touched up for months, leaving a variety of different versions. Many songs were created on the spot, with Earl just hanging out with friends in his living room or coming across beats and hopping on them in the moment. And Earl has emerged from the process with a bit of a reputation for laying down verses in just one take, a skill that left a couple of his producers seriously impressed. “He’s real chill in the booth and very serious, but once he’s out he’s just a kid,” said Taiwo “Christian” Hassan, who co-produced four tracks on Doris with his twin brother Kehinde, who goes by “Rich.” “He’s a 19-year-old kid, playing around, having fun, talking shit, cracking jokes. And then when he gets in the booth it’s a whole different beast.”