Very rarely does an album title capture the pure essence of an artist’s expression. One of these anomalies is Earl Sweatshirt’s I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, which reflects his apparent impulse to detach from reality. This clear message is furthered by a minimalist album cover and a harsh, raw delivery that spawned Sweatshirt’s cult following.
Born Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, Sweatshirt bloomed to stardom as the introverted adolescent sidekick to an exuberant and almost comically arrogant Tyler the Creator. Following an exile to a Samoan school for at-risk boys, Sweatshirt was met with an overwhelming global fan base that resonated with the lyrical sermons of an exasperated teen.
The Earl Sweatshirt of 2010 has been cast aside (along with his soot-lined garage studio), although I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside pays homage to his original message of defiance. Ordinarily, Sweatshirt’s projects are filled with featured verses and production from members of his label Odd Future.
Instead, the ten-track LP features obscure up-and-coming rappers such as Dash, Wiki, Na’kel and Vince Staples. His omission of established artists and inclusion of those who have a more similar style allow for a message much closer to home: a life of conflict with disapproving parents and skating the streets of Santa Monica.
One track to highlight is “Faucet,” in which Sweatshirt professes his desire for isolation from his growing fame over a declining guitar riff reminiscent of Hall & Oates’ ballad “Sara Smile.” Sweatshirt’s brash, bitter delivery is coupled perfectly with a set of muffled hard-hitting kicks of a bass drum.
He states, “I feel like I’m the only one pressin’ to grow upwards,” which could mean that he is weary of the immaturity associated with Odd Future. This theory holds some truth, as when The Fader magazine asked Tyler the Creator how he felt about Sweatshirt’s signing to Columbia Records, he replied, “We just aren’t as close as we were. It’s kind of weird, but I’m aware and smart enough to know.”
Sweatshirt may be becoming more mature and moving away from a forever-mischievous Tyler the Creator, who had been heavily influential in Sweatshirt’s early career. For instance, an example of Tyler’s classic tomfoolery occurred in a 2012 interview with Stephen Smith of “Newsnight,” who posed the question, “What are you saying in your lyrics?” to which Tyler replied, “Nothing, shit to piss old white people off like you.”
Sweatshirt reveals in the “Faucet” chorus,
[padding type=”medium_left_right”][quote_colored name=”” icon_quote=”no”]“And I don’t know whose house to call home lately/I hope my phone break, let it ring/Toe to toe with the foes/new and old/Basic hoes try to cage him like the po’/When I run, don’t chase me.”[/quote_colored][/padding]
His message has become more sophisticated over the last half-decade, while his physical vocal tone has remained unaltered, aside from a natural deepening from age.
Sweatshirt’s early work is flooded with hackneyed expletives that add nothing to the overall work at a semantic level. However, as a whole, his early work represents a blatant lashing out without the means to state it directly. Sweatshirt’s artistic journey moreover may be traced through his acquisition of a vocabulary and greater understanding of his sound in order to better describe his life.
The majority of the new album discusses Sweatshirt’s personal issues in detail. The discussion of intimate content seemed uncharacteristic of him until the release of “Chum” off of his 2013 LP Doris, in which Sweatshirt delves into his emotions surrounding the absence of his father growing up, which laid the groundwork for other discussions of anguished sentiment.
The discernible “theme song” of the album is rightly titled “Grief,” as it evokes incredibly bleak imagery and was the only single released to promote the album. The instrumental is comprised of a low ominous combination of deepened pitched Erykah Badu hums from her track “Fall In Love (Your Funeral),” topped by a scattered snare line that visualizes the eerie image of tapping on a window.
Sweatshirt’s pitch is artificially deepened, and he is heard occasionally muttering indistinguishably behind the lyrics to supplement the blood-curdling vibe. The lyrics are no more cheery, ringing out,
[padding type=”medium_left_right”][quote_colored name=”” icon_quote=”no”]“Lately I’ve been panicking a lot/Feeling like I’m stranded in a mob/Scrambling for Xanax out the canister to pop.”[/quote_colored][/padding]
The music video, which was released simultaneously with the track, presents a morose Sweatshirt, as we see him alone, angry and resorting to drug use. The inverted black-and-white visuals and use of fire induces an especially sullen mood.
A track that fails to facilitate the mood of the album is “Wool,” in which Staples and Sweatshirt humorously explicate their various antics through their lyrics. The fluttering offbeat bass kick drum evokes the image of the deck of a skateboard slamming against a hard concrete surface.
This is far from the first time Staples has been accompanied by a Sweatshirt produced beat. Their joint history precedes either of their stardoms, and even extends back to a track on Earl (2010). The nasally, higher tone of Staples contrasts starkly with that of Sweatshirt, which is deep and incredibly pronounced.
Another feature of the track is its lack of refrain, which is common in many Odd Future songs. The usage of a refrain would likely defy the unpolished rough sound that Sweatshirt is looking for. As Sweatshirt told Noisey in their “Inside the Beat” documentary, “I like to keep Vince [Staples] around when I’m writing, cause I think he’s better than me. It makes me try really hard.”
One can tell in this track that the two friends are pushing one another to make the best possible verses that they can. “Wool” in its current state makes listeners remember the Sweatshirt who would perform garage-based recordings and freestyles.
I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside surfaces a level of angst and cynicism that far exceeds what would seem reasonable from a 21-year-old rap mogul. The surprise release of this 10-track journal entry signals Sweatshirt’s growing relevancy in mainstream media, as the album immediately circulated through the Internet upon its release.
For his limited number of record releases, Sweatshirt’s breadth of stardom is astounding. It seems as though the farther he turns inward, rejecting those around him, the greater his cult following grows.