I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t Go Outside Album Review
Tan Cressida/Columbia Records
Released March 23, 2015
Genre: Alternative Hip Hop, Hip Hop, Dark Grim Rap
Earl Sweatshirt doesn’t care about us. He doesn’t care about anything anymore, or maybe he cares too much, it’s hard to tell. Following the melancholic prowess of 2013’s Doris, Earl returns with a shut-in mentality and a record curdled in his own bitterness. It’s a real-time documentation of a 21 year old wrapped up in his own “absence of f***s”. Earl is obviously still recuperating from the time spent in the millennial equivalent of exile in Samoa. As well as dealing with the pressure of the expectations as a flagship rapper of this generation; the lyrics portray what it feels to be skyrocketing to the top of the food-chain as Earl’s footing crumbles below him. As an alternative voice, Earl’s scope is so global but I Don’t Like S**t actually speaks more from the psyche of a man just trying to make it through the day.
Sweatshirt’s voice sounds more impactful on this return. Doris was sultry and monotone consistently whereas this outing sees Earl phase through sincerity, aggression and humour with a new-found fervour. Every bar is spat as vital, the once cherished ambivalence feels substituted with a greater grasp of emotional range. Weighing in at only 30 minutes, this record did a stellar job of trimming the fat that faulted Doris, namely the lacklustre guest spots from Mac Miller and the like. However, what guest verses there are on this record are still an arm-length from the standard Earl is delivering here. On the track ‘AM//Radio’, Ratking ringleader Wiki lets the side down with a deflated intonation sounding like a 90s R&B refrain – an unexpected disappointment from an otherwise insatiable rapper. That said, on “Wool” Vince Staples steps up to the podium bringing an effortless flow to the offbeat percussion proving, as he frequently does, that he can match a groove on anything.
Sporadic bass notes dive giving depth to minimalist beats, industrial clangs echo expanding this wide lens perspective. But the record seems purposefully vacuous, the harrowing production creates this fog of self-reflection that’s given context by Earl’s lines. Thematically, it lacks an arc – Earl covers more or less the same topics of break-ups, drug abuse, family affairs and fame throughout. The trajectory is more cyclical, Earl seems trapped in his own mind; stunted by hang-ups but so abled as demonstrated by the quality of his verses.
On ‘Faucet’ the prophetic comparisons of a new-generational DOOM become justified. Vivid and left-ield imagery where Earl personifies himself as a “land mammal staying away from the alter”. There’s a rich emotional resonance on this track and many moments like it. Earl pins himself as a anxious sociopath but I Don’t Like S**t as a whole is counter-evidence for that. The heartfelt descending synth line on this track bleeds sincerity and when applied to earnest delivery, makes the lyric “when I run don’t chase me”, profoundly believable. This is juxtaposed to the gaunt and empty “like a tin man” character on ‘Grown Ups’. Not that I don’t buy that Earl’s trouble with Xanax has been an obstacle in the past, I just feel his writing style best fits that of a voice aware of his own emotional complexity.
The first we heard of his release, “Grief”, was a shock to the system. Every verse is razor sharp and sounds to be cutting Earl’s throat as it makes it’s exit – “Step into the shadows / we can talk addiction”. There’s this lurching breath behind the beat connoting to a beast stirring in the trenches – hopefully one untethered by the next release. Unfortunately this static atmosphere is dampened by the tag-along coda at the hilt of the track. It’s a charming instrumental featuring synthetically imitated horns but feels tacked on the end. And this is a common faux pas throughout. For such a brief record any filler is too much wasted time and though they act as transitional mechanics I still find them an unjustified use of space.
Stripped back and indicative of dirt stuck under nails, I Don’t Like S**t is a sobering half an hour of sparse and unforgiving hip-hop. It lacks the heat of Doris and will probably be too frigid to those susceptible to the cold. Earl recently sat down with NPR Hip-Hop team and fleshed out this record with some much needed context making it bolder than you might initially think. With Odd Future cohort, Tyler, the Creator, having just released one of the most over-inflated and indulgent albums this year, Earl’s project is the antithesis of that mistake. It’s hollow, sharp and doesn’t care if you like it or not, or at least that’s what it wants to project.
FAV TRACKS: GRIEF / MANTRA / WOOL / FAUCET
LEAST FAV TRACKS: AM / OFF TOP