Earl Sweatshirt’s “Doris” Album Review


Earl Sweatshirt receives positive reviews for much anticipated solo album, “Doris.” Photo Courtesy of okayplayer.com

Jamilla Van Dyke-Bailey

Complex Magazine released their list of “The 40 Most Anticipated Albums for the Rest of 2013” on Aug. 1 where Earl Sweatshirt’s debut album, Doris, came in at number five; only a few places below Eminem’s’ Marshall Mathers LP 2 and Drake’s Nothing Was The Same. For those of you who are not familiar with the name, Earl Sweatshirt is a crucial member of the notorious California Hip-Hop Collective: Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA), or Odd Future for short, that is known for their controversial lyrics and music videos, their popular clothing line, their television show, Loiter Squad and their famous raging concert performances on their repeated sold out tours. What the group lacks in public acceptance, they make up for it with public support, resulting in a cult following.

Earl Sweatshirt was away at a therapeutic center in Samoa when Odd Future started to become noticed, buzz still circulated about their missing man, Sweatshirt. Through praise from his fellow group members, his features on their mixtapes, his own mixtape Earl that he released before he left for Samoa and the “Free Earl” movement, Earl was welcomed home in 2012 to a large, loud and expectant buzz. As he worked on his album Doris Earl Sweatshirt stayed musically relevant with verses on the Odd Future collective album, Odd Future Volume 2, Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE and Tyler, the Creator’s second solo album, Wolf. As the second half of the year came nearer, fans awaited Doris and Earl Sweatshirt’s public debut.

Within the first week of his release, without a single on the radio, Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris sold 49,000 copies, placing him above radio favorite A$AP Ferg’s Trap Lord.  Not only did Doris do well in it’s first week, it was accepted well across the board. Doris established who Earl Sweatshirt is as an artist and producer. It proved his growth as a rapper and a producer, that he had the ear and talent to make a good album and that he was going to be here for a while.

With the premiere of Doris, Sweatshirt managed to open himself up to the consumers and admit that he feels a lot of pressure to be successful, that he has a strained relationship with his mother and girlfriend that is getting worse by the minute, that he misses his father who walked out on him and his mother when he was younger, that he might have a problem with the type of fun he likes to have, that he is getting sick of being praised and that he doesn’t know what to do about it. In the songs where Earl isn’t rapping to show off his new lavish lifestyle, bash people who didn’t believe in him, take out his unique form of rage on others, or show off his skill in word play, Sweatshirt opens up that he is a young man who is scared and lost and feels the need to drink, smoke and behave badly to get away from his problems. But since Sweatshirt mixes these songs and these lines up with the false male bravado of all rappers and all young men, the honest and open songs don’t come off as whiney and the listener is still able to appreciate the tracks that seem to be about nothing of importance.

Overall, for a first album that will never have public backing form MTV, VH1 or any major radio station, Earl Sweatshirt did well for himself and will continue to do well by mastering his lane of “outsider” music until the mainstream media is able to place him, and the other rappers of Odd Future, into a public category (if that ever happens). His well received album not only did well in immediate sales, but a few cities of his “EarlWolf” tour with Tyler, the Creator and his solo “Doris” tour have already begun to sell out. So no, one will not hear Earl on the radio and he will probably have a tough time getting this album to become platinum, but he managed to stay true to himself as an individual, grow as an artist and create a well written, well put together album featuring producers like The Neptunes, RZA and Alchemist and featuring artist like Frank Ocean, Tyler, the Creator, Vince Staples and Mac Miller. Doris is not Earl Sweatshirt’s last solo release by a long shot; this California kid is here to stay.