Earl Sweatshirt – Doris

written by: August 28, 2013
Album-art-for-Doris-by-Earl-Sweatshirt Release Date: August 20, 2013


Since his first mixtape in 2010, Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt has been a little mystery in hip hop. He took a mother-induced hiatus to Samoa following the mixtape and three years later, he has released his first studio album, Doris.

The album is full of sinister beats that Earl sleepily raps over. Sonically, Doris is one of the most interesting hip hop albums released this year; all of the hype and anticipation was well deserved.

Each beat is a satisfying kind of frumpy. They have a tendency to be melodically jagged because of the way each sound or instrument is layered onto the others to create the final mix. The snare drum on “Burgundy” disrupts the rhythm in a way that affects the rest of the melody, putting accents in unexpected places. “Hoarse” opens with music similar to an old Western film, but as Earl raps, the accents in the beat change.

Earl produced eight of his 15 tracks under the name randomblackdude, and his beat production is a carefully crafted awkwardness. The beats are surprising and dope. Each track, despite that degree of dysfunction, is somehow also very clean, and it is very fitting for Earl’s rapping style this his production is deliciously atypical.

One of the darker beats on Doris is featured on “Centurion.” It is the creepiest, most malicious-sounding track. It features Vince Staples, whose voice is echoed deeply in the background. A completely different melody kicks in as Earl raps, “Vinny Stape, they stupid, think the city safe/Until that little bindi placed, headshots, red dot/Block as hot as Denny plates.” This is perhaps Earl’s most cynical moment on Doris. “Centurion” then flows beautifully into the instrumental track “523.”

On this release, Earl strays away from his history of lyrics about rape and violence. He’s clearly rapping from a self-reflective space. “Chum” is an intimate glimpse into his thoughts, with the clever line, “Get up off the pavement, dust the dirt up off my psyche,” in the hook.

“Burgundy” is about the creation of Doris and Earl’s relative fame. A voiceover, presumably Earl’s imitation of a manager or record producer, says on the track, “Hey Thebe, nigga, what’s up nigga? I heard you back, I need them raps, nigga. I need the verse, I don’t care about what you going through or what you gotta do nigga, I need bars, sixteen of ’em.” Earl addresses the pressure of what is expected of him, even using his actual name, Thebe. Because “Burgundy” is only the second track on Doris, it plants certain thoughts about the rest of the album. He was indeed going through some things, though, and these aren’t BS raps he spat out for the sake of producing an album.

As Earl steps into introspective territory, he distances himself from some of his Odd Future affiliates. While they still make appearances on Doris, he is making a distinction between himself and those who blew up before he did, especially Tyler, The Creator.

Even though Tyler appears on the tracks “Whoa” and “Sasquatch,” and Frank Ocean spits (not sings!) incredibly dope verses on “Sunday,” this album is truly Earl’s debut and a breakaway from Odd Future.

His lyrics and delivery are part of what makes Doris so intriguing. Earl drones with intermittent moments of power in his voice. He spits sleepily, waking up just enough to give force to a particular moment, only to doze off again.

His lyrics are at the heart of the album. The marriage between his raps and the beats is glorious; the production suits Earl’s flow, which tends to be a slew of rhymes and references that make it feel as though he is rapping his stream of consciousness. On “Whoa,” Earl raps about his raps: “Gooey writtens, scoot ’em to a ditch, chewed and booty scented/Too pretentious, do pretend like he could lose with spitting/Steaming tubes of poop and twisted doobies full of euphemisms/Stupid, thought it up, jot it quick, thaw it out/Toss it right back like a vodka fifth.”

Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris is truly the step into his psyche that many have been waiting for, while using intriguing beats that disorient listeners. There’s never a chance to comfortably settle into the album, but Earl’s flow leads the way.

Earl Sweatshirt – Doris tracklist:

  1. “Pre (feat. SK La’Fare) “
  2. “Burgundy”
  3. “20 Wave Caps”
  4. “Sunday (feat. Frank Ocean)”
  5. “Hive (feat. Vinny Staples and Casey Veggies)”
  6. “Chum”
  7. “Sasquatch (feat. Tyler, The Creator)”
  8. “Centurion (feat. Vinny Staples)”
  9. “523”
  10. “Uncle Al”
  11. “Guild (feat. Mac Miller)”
  12. “Molasses (feat. RZA)”
  13. “Hoarse”
  14. “Knight (feat. Domo Genesis”