Review: Earl Sweatshirt's 'I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside'
Earl Sweatshirt is a study in contradictions. He hates everything, but he also kind of doesn’t. He has grown tired of the world around him, but not necessarily of the people in it. He has evidently drifted apart from his Odd Future cohorts, but he still shows love to the crew. His distaste for attention has peaked, but he is still willing to share the darkest aspects of his psyche with anyone who’s willing to listen.
While touring in 2014, Earl fell into a dangerous, drugged-out haze. He was losing weight at an uncontrollable pace and described himself as “physically and mentally at the end of my rope.” His debilitating relapse came shortly after a battle with pneumonia, leaving him in a state of chronic exhaustion. Unwilling to revert back to his old destructive habits, he decided to delegate all his energy to writing, producing, and recording his third LP in isolation. "People think being alone is a luxury, but it's crucial,” Earl muses in a recent interview with Billboard. “Whatever you're not down with about yourself gets loud and in your face."
I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, the oddball rapper’s aptly titled new album, is the product of his nine months in self-imposed exile. The 10-track LP provides a clear image of Earl’s jagged and withdrawn frame of mind, as it is home to some of the most poignant and confessional verses he has ever written. His writing alternates between bold introspection and icy detachment, often changing in style mid-song. These rapid adjustments of tone feel almost as if he has caught himself getting carried away with his honesty and then abruptly decides that he has shared too much.
With I Don’t Like Shit, Earl has become more concise and focused in his lyricism. The meandering verses of his previous releases have been replaced by streamlined ones that rarely stray from the topic at hand. While bars roll off his tongue at a much slower pace than they used to, his devastatingly quick wit remains fully intact. Even within the smoggy and depressive aesthetic of I Don’t Like Shit, Earl still finds creative ways to flex, delivering lines such as “N****s want to fade me, b*****s feel some type of way for me / 50s in my pocket falling out like f*****g baby teeth" with confidence and dexterity.
With the exception of Odd Future affiliate Left Brain’s “Off Top,” the entirety of I Don’t Like Shit is produced exclusively by Earl. The production, while certainly cohesive throughout the album, is murky and disjointed. Individual elements of each soundscape are loosely strung together, conveying a sense of dissonance that matches Earl’s state of mind. The overarching sound of the album is characterized by moody chordal elements and post-industrial percussion, creating a unique sound that is quintessentially Earl’s alone.
I Don’t Like Shit is certainly the most organic and fluid body of work the young rapper has ever put out, as it paints a strikingly accurate portrait of Earl’s complex character. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to find his true voice as a rapper, it seems as though Earl’s extended time alone has finally allowed him to develop his artistic point of view. I Don’t Like Shit attests to Earl’s newfound maturity as an artist, showcasing his ability to communicate his ideas eloquently and effectively. Now that Earl no longer faces pressure to prove himself to the hip hop community, he is making music that is unequivocally his own.
STANDOUTS: “Mantra,” “Grief,” & “DNA (feat. Na’Kel)”