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Album Review: Earl Sweatshirt “Doris”

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What the general public knows about Earl Sweatshirt is pretty scarce. You may know however, of his rebellious crew Odd Future; a group of formidable characters that makes us eat our stereotypical opinions on rap crews. They all offer impressive lyrical levels, but outside of front man Tyler, The Creator and Grammy winner Frank Ocean, it’s Earl that garners the most interest.

   The interest of course peaked when he managed to acquire some buzz with the release of his 2010 mix tape Earl. Just as we began to take notice, he disappeared. Instead of his group updating his new fan base of his whereabouts, they instead pushed “Free Earl” T-Shirts and his mystery became his fame. We’d go on to find out Earl was at a Samoa-based boarding school for troubled youths. Now he’s back and has a life of stardom waiting for him. “Stardom” that he struggles with handling as he details on his disc, Doris. The kid just wants to rap.

   Sweatshirt’s LP opens with the bass-heavy “PRE,” and serves as a grandiose introduction for what’s to come.The track features Sk La’ Flare, who Earl was generous enough to let usher in his album. He takes over for the duration of one minute and 45 seconds before Earl even makes an entrance. But when he does, clever bars begin to spew
                    I’m a problem to niggas
Pop artillery, the carbonates with him
Starving to hit ’em, spar with a nigga
   On “Burgundy” produced by The Neptunes, Sweatshirt begins to pour out his problems with fame and how they’re effecting his personal relationships with family.  We are treated to an interlude from Vince Staples who openly mocks OF fans that could care less about emotion. “Don’t nobody care about how you feel, nigga. We want raps!” He screams. Although It’s an in-depth telling of his current lifestyle, Pharrell’s frequent chime in with the sample  “cut that b*tch off,” can be a bit distracting. However, if you listen to where the sample is from, you’d agree its an odd but fitting choice. Earl also flexes his production chops on this effort, under the moniker RandomBlackDude, and handles 6 of the 15 songs himself. A standout of his from behind the boards is “Sunday.” The Frank Ocean featured track finds Earl proclaiming that he’s faithful to his girl, even though he’s “f*cking famous,” but confessing that he knows he isn’t around like he should be in his relationship which causes a strain.
   Doris is filled with strictly rap features and no hooks for the majority, with most tracks running under the 3 minute mark. The features are also thoughtfully placed. Mac Miller shows up on the delightful stoner anthem “Guild,” while Tyler adds some trademark personality on “Sasquatch and “Whoa” respectively. RZA’s contribution on “Molasses” is limited lyrically, but production wise is flawless. It could easily serve as an ode to the Wu Tang Clan complete with RZA’s ”I’ll fu*k the freckles off your face” chant.
   Where Earl lacks, is his ability to command the attention of his audience at times. His laid back flow can easily lose you, while his hard-hitting metaphors could use more finesse. Doris is Earl reluctantly accepting the spotlight he’s been thrusted into, and sharing his fears in doing so. We’ll take what we can get. We want those raps, nigga.