Earl Sweatshirt has roared back onto the rap scene with a new single and collaboration on Vince Staples LP, "FM." (Illustration by Sofie Moustahfid, University of Maryland, College Park)

Earl Sweatshirt Is Back and As Free As He’s Ever Been

Every time Earl drops new music the world becomes a better place.

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Every time Earl drops new music the world becomes a better place.

As he’s made evident with prior projects, Earl Sweatshirt is a homebody. In fact, he put it down in pretty black-and-white terms on his last album, “I Don’t Like S—, I Don’t Go Outside,” a showcase of quality over quantity if there ever was one. Indeed, ever since the dawn of the Odd Future hype train, Earl has turned wit into a motif, and isolation into an inspiration.

Still, his last three years have been pretty eventful. The LA-bred wordsmith has gone through an unfairly melancholic string of events, including the heart-wrenching passing of his father, a South African poet and activist who went by the pen name of Bra Willie, and the tragic loss of his long-time friend and consistent collaborator Mac Miller.

Tragic as these losses are, Earl has grappled with how emotional he’ll allow himself to be in his music. As Vince Staples raps on “Burgundy,” the second track on Earl’s 2013 album “Doris,” “Why you so depressed and sad all the time like a little b—-? What’s the problem, man? N—– want to hear you rap. Don’t nobody care about how you feel, we want raps, n—-.”

Earl understands all too well that fans want to feel an emotional connection to their favorite artists, but that they also expect a product, a song they can nod their heads to preferably, which can leave musicians hesitant to be too confessional in their material.

Sweatshirt’s latest single, “Nowhere2go,” interrogates that concept further, and it’s a lot to digest, even though the track doesn’t even run for two minutes. Produced by 6press, formally known as Adé Hakim, the track is very off-kilter, with rapid-fire high hats clanking alongside an airy vocal sample that loops from start to finish.

Earl finds a way to flow over this zany beat while making it sound effortless, rapping about where you can find him as of late: “Nowadays I be with Sage and with Six-press, ya dig? / I’m in L.A. with Glen, please come and claim ya kid,” and no longer handing out cosigns to just any random rapper: “I can’t do favors no more, if you lame and you broke / And you waiting for cosign, I take a plate to go.”

Ignoring the fact that listening to Earl’s slodgy, multisyllabic flow takes me all the way back to my transition phase from middle school veteran to a high school newcomer, there is no bias when I say that, sonically, he has not missed a beat in any sense of the word.

Hell, he just appeared on Vince Staples’ latest LP, “FM!” where he spits an overwhelmingly dense verse in what was a mere 23-second interlude blatantly titled, “New earlsweatshirt.”

On the verse, he raps about his wardrobe throughout his teenage years, “16 with that bald fade, Sean John on my chest,” while paying homage to the people in his life who have solemnly passed. “Rest in peace to my pops and the boy Riley / Gotta speak on the dead homies when they time end.”

On top of featuring on his extremely tight homie’s thus-far acclaimed project, Earl has been active on Twitter, talking about how excited he is to start working on material again. That’s a great sign for any fan of the artist who knows he is a genuine human just dealing with obstacles that life seems intent on throwing at him.

And while there’s no official information as to when it will be released or what it’s going to be called, Earl’s forthcoming project will surely be worth the wait, as his music has proven time and again.

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