Skip to main content

Earl Sweatshirt - Feet Of Clay (2019)

It's been almost 12 months since I gushed about Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt's third studio album and 25 minute meditation on mortal grief. At the time I praised Earl's collaboration with artists from the New York underground, shaping his sound with the likes of Standing On the Corner and Adé Hakim

In spite of its brevity, Some Rap Songs remains a shrouded quandary, one brimming with effortless prophecies waiting to be unpacked for years to come. In the wake of this abstract classic came Earl's return to independence, severing a 6 year partnership with Columbia Records to "Do riskier shit".  

Feet Of Clay is a 7 track sample of this new direction, and Earl doesn't seem to be coming up for air any time soon. Its title based on a Biblical tale foretelling the end of empires, Sweatshirt paints a grim and complex picture of the uncertain future. Opener 74 comes bursting out the gate with a burdened beat crumbling under its own weight and hypnotic flows demanding of close attention.

"Sellin' kids culture with death, circlin' like carrion
The more the merrier, phone got you livin' vicarious
Ice melting 'cause it's so hot
The veil lifts, the pain salient"

Deteriorating song structures make extracting quotes from their original context a difficult task as Earl's serpentine train of thought integrates each line into a larger whole. It's a trait shared by some of hip-hop's greatest lyricists, unique ideas coalesce to reinforce the MC's character. Even if you're rarely left with a clear picture, each line carries enough weight to make its mark.

Consistency is key here given most tracks barely reach the 2 minute mark. Earl has trimmed so much fat off his music I'm worried it might be malnourished, taut skin stretched across the bones of pseudo-philosophic musings and pessimistic comparisons. EAST exemplifies 'less is more' with its 3 second sample of Arabic strings looped ad-infinitum. Earl's delivery matches this off-kilter tone with lackadaisical bars tackling the loss of those close to him. I was initially thrown off by this contrast but further listening reveals EAST as one of the young MC's finest lyrical moments.

"The wind whispered to me, "Ain't it hard?"
I wait to be the light shimmering from a star
Cognitive dissonance shttared and the necessary venom restored
As if it matters if you think it matters anymore"

It's followed by the somber MTOMB, flipping legendary percussionist James Mtume into a soulful reflection. I'm inclined to believe these beats are self-produced, given Earl's increased creative control over his music. They're a less consistent batch than on Some Rap Songs, but still a perfect fit for what Sweaty is trying to accomplish. The EP's latter half brings an unexpected dose of positivity, grabbing cuts from heartfelt sung melodies and upbeat instrumental numbers.

NY protegé Mavi features on EL TORO COMBO MEAL and does his best to match Sweatshirt's standards. Both verses are brutally honest but I couldn't get past his derivative style. Mach-Hommy is a welcome switch-up on nearly 5 minute closer 4N, a marathon length in Earl's timeline. The song is largely instrumental but it's such a good one I didn't mind the repetitive beat. Mach brings an unusually gritty performance that pairs wonderfully with Earl, ending things on an uncertain note.

There's no doubt Earl Sweatshirt has come into his own as a once-in-a generation writer, delving deeper into New York's hypnoagogic sound to find a powerful voice. I find it near-impossible to fault his performances despite their intentional obfuscation that puts so many off. Next to Some Rap Songs it seems Earl is in a better place, but the themes he's grappling with are as heavy as ever. If you enjoyed the density of his last release, Feet Of Clay is a welcome second helping sure to placate. Most hip-hop listeners however are likely to bounce straight off. Earl's experimental forays have already earned the ire of long-term fans, making them all the more admirable in my eyes.



Popular posts from this blog

Autechre - AE_LIVE 2016/2018 (2020)

LISTE N MELBOURNE_220618 What was best concert you've ever been to? How much of it do you actually remember? The human brain has a tendency to squash experiences down into bite-sized sensory snippets and emphasise emotional impact, leaving us with heartening yet endlessly fallible recollections of past events. Now if you could hear that gig again, exactly as it sounded, what would that do to the memory? This is what I'll be exploring with the release of MELBOURNE_220618 , one of seven soundboards recently released by electronic heavyweights Autechre as AE_LIVE 2016/2018 . Quick caveat, this show actually took place on the 21st of June as I saw them in Tasmania on the 22nd, but erroneous titles aside let's move on. This tour, known by fans as 'onesix',  explored the 'deep mixing' practices of their studio work this decade, presenting dense palettes of post-human ambient and contorting them into sounds unheard. It's a

Justice Yeldham Interview - The World's Best Broken Glass Player

THE WORLD'S BEST BROKEN GLASS PLAYER Lucas Abela has always been a hard man to ignore. Even before adopting broken glass and the Justice Yeldham moniker, he was destroying records with power tools, attaching effects pedals to trampolines, and 'banging on metal' as a self-described Gold Coast teenage goth. I sat down with Lucas and his 2 year old son Ernie (a budding noise artist) to snack on carob and chat all things glass biting, instrument building, free improvising, and expectation subverting. The musical snippets bookending each section are taken from Justice Yeldham's forthcoming release on Feeding Tube Records . Justice Yeldham is playing a FREE show at The Foundry this Thursday May 9th, supported by Barbry Allen, Wrong Man, and Lilith. Check out the Facebook event for more details. Early Years Lucas spent his high school days bouncing between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, channeling teenage angst into primitive sonic explorations. These year

Sophie Min - SOLO VOL. 1 (2020)

LISTEN As the world continues to spend days apart, it seems an opportune time to review some solo improvisation. The past few years have seen local pianist Sophie Min become an ever-more established name in Australian jazz. Endlessly prolific, her growing catalogue boasts collaborations with some of Brisbane's most exciting players: the likes of Ben Shannon , Helen Svoboda , and Tim Green . With an orchestral project still in the pipeline, Soph has seen it fit to release curt, solo renditions of original compositions as SOLO VOL. 1 . While I've been an avid follower of Min's improvisational exploits, her playing style sits firmly straddled between the worlds of classical and jazz. GBDE 's childlike innocence recalls the early Romantic period while knottier (k)numbers like Just Exploded evoke Debussy's sombre approach toward ruminative registers. It's these aspects of impressionism that see Sophie skirting the framework of her compositions, chipping away