Earl, the reform school, bipolar rap prodigy from the hot-for-a-minute Odd Future, surprisingly seems to be the one that really broke out from under the yoke of insta-fame. Surprisingly because for a while there he looked to be the one who had the most to lose. Granted, I’m stuck in the white hipster echo chamber of joints like Pitchfork and the like who are less interested in what’s hot in the ‘hood and more about what they deem to be artful. So it’s a complete possibility that Earl’s haze-filled, jumbled bag of broken appliance-sounding beats may only appeal to an indie crowd unimpressed by 95% of the other hip hop out there.
It’s not to say I’m completely in love with this album, as there are times when his delivery slows to a point that makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Like a train grinding to a halt. It’s not like I want Twista or anything, but most of the album sounds like it’s stuck in quicksand. Like a guy who’s just popped a handful of anti-depressants or got hit with a tranq dart. And, that, combined with the minor key piano tinkling and the aforementioned crackass beats, brings a super dark tone to the party and suggests that there should be a sticker on the album cover warning listeners that they should probably smoke an a-bomb (the internet tells me this is weed mixed with heroin) before hitting play.
So the more I listen, the more I realize I actually am not enjoying myself. And maybe this falls in that whole “challenging” category of music, like Dylan and Leonard Cohen, which I know I’m supposed to like but just can’t bring myself to listen to more than once. Though I gotta say that I did listen to his other albums Earl and Doris a multitude of times, and those albums have some joy or fun or moments of levity and just something engaging that this one doesn’t have. A sense of humor and wit hidden within the crass and, at times, incredibly misogynistic lyrics. Some of it is production, some is subject matter and some is just that shine in his delivery that seems to be missing in this go ’round. It’s as if he went from sly indie rockstar to slowcore dirge master — a move I’d dislike in any artist regardless of how I’m told I should feel about it.