February 7, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 43°F


Review: ‘Doris’ reveals rapper’s depth

Earl Sweatshirt "Doris"

Earl Sweatshirt has long been one of the more intriguing members of the Odd Future hip-hop music collective. Born Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, he garnered major media attention for not only his languid wordplay as an innovative rapper, but also for his mysterious disappearance from Odd Future a few years ago. The absence was because of Sweatshirt’s attendance at a school for at-risk boys in Samoa, mandated by his mother after his involvement with Odd Future gained a cult following. Now, Sweatshirt is back in full force with his latest album and first major label release, “Doris.”

The album is full of the lethargic beats and dexterous flows that fans may expect from Sweatshirt. However, the subject matter has matured, which is perhaps an indication of the coming-of-age of the rapper himself. Far from the shocking and insouciant vulgarity that catapulted Odd Future into the mainstream, Sweatshirt’s new raps are dark, complex and frank. Unlike his initial “Earl” mixtape, which was littered with rape and death imagery, in “Doris,” Sweatshirt addresses his absent father — Keorapetse Kgositsile, who was named South African poet laureate in 2006 — the blessings and curses of fame and the pain of the city he lives in, among other topics.

Guest appearances run the gamut from self-named “white boy” rapper Mac Miller to Odd Future favorites Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean, talents that serve to highlight Sweatshirt’s meandering style. Highlights of the album include “Sunday” (featuring Ocean dissing rival Chris Brown), which explores the melancholy of young love, and “Hive,” which features a steady, downtempo beat that mirrors the hopelessness that Sweatshirt sees for his “city that’s recession-hit,” where he sees himself as a “provider of the backdrop music/for the crack rock user.”

One of the most lyrically raw songs is “Burgundy,” which expresses Sweatshirt’s vulnerability as a boy afraid of his future and worried about living up to expectations others have of him. It opens with Odd Future collaborator Vince Staples asking Sweatshirt, “Why you so depressed and sad all the time like a little b—-?” Sweatshirt replies by addressing his insecurities with sudden fame: “And my priorities f—– up, I know it, I’m afraid I’m going to blow it/and when them expectations raising because my daddy was a poet, right?/Talk all you want, I’m taking no advice/N—-, I’m about to relish in this anguish.”

The album is relatively short at well under an hour — but its cohesive pensiveness shows a maturity and consciousness from Sweatshirt that may leave listeners hungry for what the future may hold.