Earl Sweatshirt SICK! Tan Cressida/Warner
It’s easy to imagine Earl Sweatshirt low-key thriving during the pandemic – after all, this is a man who famously released an acclaimed album titled I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. Whether or not that’s true, his first album in four years, SICK!, feels more mature and more deliberate than just about anything he’s put out to date.
Sweatshirt was always the most introspective member of the Odd Future crew, and while Tyler and the gang have mostly grown out of their youthful antics, here we see a new appreciation for musicality that Sweatshirt had always hinted at. Tabula Rasa, a collab with NYC duo Armand Hammer, has a hard 90s edge, with tinkling pianos and R&B vocals sailing under lyrics bemoaning the state of the world: “Some talk like they never got punched in the face.”
Elsewhere, vintage soul samples abound, with scratchy brass bubbling under stark bars about anxiety, drinking, LA, car crashes and scores of other disconcerting imagery. On Titanic, through hypnotic, staccato rhymes, he paints a new portrait of himself with a “mask on like a supervillain” – an icon for these modern times, which feels both endless and accelerating towards nothing. Sure it’s heavy, but it’s also honest. A quality that, nearly ten years on from his debut, Earl still has in abundance.