When Earl Sweatshirt returned form Samoa, the hip-hop community accepted him with open arms. As the young emcee has gotten back into the swing of things by making and releasing new music, some of those arms have started to take up arms, frequently firing shots at Earl for his alleged fall from grace. In true Odd Future fashion, Earl eventually took to the internet and responded with a sardonic tweet:
This nigga earl fell off bruh. This nigga boof.
— Earl Sweatshirt (@earlxsweat) July 21, 2012
It seems silly to debate whether or not Earl has fallen off– whatever that really even means. After all, he’s only released one song (“Home“). Other than that, all he has released is guest verses. Yet for some reason, Earl’s detractors see those verses as evidence of an imminent decline. Because these detractors can’t seem to shut up on their own, it’s time for an intervention.
First, it’s important to remember that Earl rose to prominence when he was not currently making music, kind of like an artist becoming popular after death or incarceration. Because Earl was neither making music nor able to talk about the music he made, the existing music and everything it embodied eclipsed him. In other words, because Earl was the dominant image of Earl and that image had nothing standing beside it, in fans’ minds, Earl is Earl. That image of Earl stands at odds with his experiences in Samoa and with Earl’s plans for the future. As expressed in Jon Caramanica’s article and more recent tweets Earl is done with Earl.
I hope i lose you as a fan if you only fuck with me cause i rapped about raping girls when i was 15.
— Earl Sweatshirt (@earlxsweat) August 12, 2012
That being said, the accusations being leveled against Earl aren’t necessarily about his content. According to the murmurs, post-Samoa Earl just isn’t as technically proficient as Earl. That doesn’t hold up. “Home,” Earl’s aptly named first released song upon his return, makes this apparent: “Mouth deliver poop, it’s spouting mucus from its stupid tongue/Alpha male, got the chickens looser than his cruising trucks/Losers get a Kuma Punch, I’m moving like a puma’s lunch.” The internal rhymes, the brash, impudent lyrics and the stunted delivery that Earl is known for are all there. The only noticeable difference is a deeper voice and less undulation in Earl’s tone, products of physical maturation. In Syd the Kyd’s own words, Earl’s matured, but he hasn’t changed.
On his guest verses, Earl is just as vibrant as he is on “Home.” Domo Genesis’ “Elimination Chamber” and Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids” feature an Earl that fits right in with the tone and concepts of the songs. Perhaps that’s the issue. While Earl was away, he stood out. Youthful, rebellious and absent in person, yet present in the music– the Earl we get on Earl is an iconoclast, an anomaly and an enigma. Now that he’s back, his tweets, his guest verses and video appearances constantly remind us that he is just like any other rapper. Put simply, now that Earl’s mystique is gone, the man himself stands in its wake.
In the end, the murmurs of a sophomore slump are nonsense. Earl hasn’t even started his next semester yet. So far, all he’s done is summer coursework. For fans who have always been more enthralled by the music than by the mystique, the former has been and will be the determining factor for any evaluations of Earl’s status. For those who are still in love with the mystique, that’s fine, but your relationship is a lie.
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