Earl Sweatshirt Delves Deep on ‘I Don’t Like Sh*t, I Don’t Go Outside’
Earl Sweatshirt’s young career has been largely enigmatic. After bursting onto the scene in 2010 as the most lyrically gifted of the cartoonish Odd Future crew, he dropped his odiously raw Earl mixtape and then disappeared, with only “Free Earl” chants left in his wake at OF shows. Shortly after his arrival back home, he released his highly anticipated debut album, Doris. Cerebral and complicated, it lived up to the hype. And yet, there was something like reluctance underscoring it all for the MC. Only in contrast to his latest release, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, do we realize what we’ve been missing from Earl: what it sounds like when he completely commits.
Clocking in at a half hour, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside is as much a mood as it is an album. Earl wisely produced almost every track, with “Off Top” the only exception (Left Brain was behind the boards for that one). He's always had a nice ear for beat selection, but the rapper’s intensely minimalist style results in a blurry and subtle soundscape, with seamless transitions between tracks. The stripped down beats aren’t a sign of his limitations as a producer as much as they’re an indication of his self-awareness as an artist. Those melancholy strings, tumbling drums and jarring industrial clanks ring true as a messy, desperate head space.
Beyond just relaying his experiences, Earl recreates the feeling behind them. “Grief’s” hi-hats crack like a hangover headache as he spits, “Lately I’ve been panickin’ a lot, feelin’ like I’m stranded in a mob/Scramblin’ for Xanax out the canister to pop.” It’s all bubbling anxiety until the second verse dips into a heroin nod-off. His bars are slurred, his thoughts disconnected and then he just shuts up so he can hear the beat ride for the final minute. It’s brilliantly uncomfortable.
The insular discomfort is a common theme; damn near the only one, really. He’s struggling with the loss of his grandma, a failed relationship, complex dynamics with his parents, loss of respect for old friends and the increased fame he's garnered. “Mantra” touches on much of that, with Earl reminding himself, “Now you surrounded with a gaggle of 100 fucking thousand kids/Who you can't get mad at, when they want a pound or a pic/'Cause they the reason that the traffic on the browser quick/And they the reason that the paper in your trousers thick.”
It’s not strictly self-indulgence, though; Earl snaps, too. Though he doesn’t call Odd Future out specifically, it’s hard not to make the inference when just one of the crew are featured (in stark contrast to Doris), and Earl drops lines like, “You circus niggas, you turning into tricks/I was making waves, you was surfin’ in 'em/Dealing with the stomach pains just from birthing niggas' shit.” The album is so intensely personal that the guest verses feel a little like intrusions.
Nothing is forced in his rhymes; his lyricism is so dense and acrobatic that his freestyle vibe is all the more impressive. On the deeply atmospheric I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, Earl Sweatshirt has leveled up and grown into his talents as a rapper and producer. The unnecessary shock value buffer between he and his audience has been cast away leaving an impactful artist in its wake. —Rachel Chesbrough