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Earl Sweatshirt - 'Doris' (Tan Cressida/Columbia)

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By

Earl Sweatshirt - 'Doris' (Tan Cressida/Columbia)
© Sony

Earl Sweatshirt moves to his own beat. The Odd Future rapper's Doris isn't the album most were expecting, as he warned us in the days leading up to its release. Earl has moved on from the grisly narratives that characterized his self-titled 2010 mixtape. One thing that hasn't changed, though, is Earl's biggest asset — his rappity rap skills.

When Odd Future first ear-raped America in 2010, Earl immediately stood out as the group's most potent lyricist. Tyler was the chief provocateur; Frank Ocean was the likable star; Earl Sweatshirt was the gifted emcee who made your head spin.

You've heard the story before: Earl disappears at the height of Odd Future's popularity. He's sent to a Samoan boarding school by his mom, unhappy with his declining grades and unruly ways. In his absence he becomes something of a cult rap figure: fans wore T-shirt screaming "Free Earl" without even knowing what he needed freeing from.

Earl's time away from hip-hop, away from the chatter and the hype transformed him into a new man. His pen game got sharper, too.

Those early songs that preceded Doris showed he was rapping as lucidly as ever. First came "Home," which had him picking up right where he left off with macabre raps and heavy bars. His show-stealing cameo on "Oldie" was another highlight. It wasn't until "Chum" that he started peeling back the veil for some personal reflections. It was a clear indication of Doris' direction.

There was a steady progression to the balanced sound that now constitutes Doris. It wasn't a dramatic shift; it was patient and poised, like the flow Earl predominantly employs.

I suspect that those accustomed to traditional rap albums will find Doris intimidating at first. Earl sidesteps album making conventions like hooks and guest singers in favor of lurid lyrics and vivid vignettes. Earl's fondness for breathless rapping means there's plenty to parse. Repeated listens reveals Doris as the most interesting, listenable, brilliantly produced Odd Future album to date.

As for the production, Doris has an impressive sonic arc. The beats are all brooding, warped, DOOM-esque. It gives the album a cohesive yet isolated feel, but Pharrell's twinkling beat on "Burgundy" helps shake things up. Most of the 15-track album is self-produced under the moniker RandomBlackDude, and Earl's storyteller's penchant extends to the subtleties of his musical arrangements.

Ultimately, Earl Sweatshirt made the album he wanted to make.

Top Tracks:
"Chum" | Watch | Listen
"Whoa" | Watch | Listen
"Hive" | Watch | Listen
"Sunday"

Release Date: August 20th

Doris Tracklist
  1. "Pre" (featuring SK La' Flare)
  2. "Burgundy" (featuring Vince Staples)
  3. "20 Wave Caps" (featuring Domo Genesis)
  4. "Sunday" (featuring Frank Ocean)
  5. "Hive" (featuring Vince Staples & Casey Veggies)
  6. "Chum"
  7. "Sasquatch" (featuring Tyler, The Creator)
  8. "Centurion" (featuring Vince Staples)
  9. "523"
  10. "Uncle Al"
  11. "Guild" (featuring Mac Miller)
  12. "Molasses" (featuring RZA)
  13. "Whoa" (featuring Tyler, The Creator
  14. "Hoarse"
  15. "Knight" (featuring Domo Genesis

Stream: Doris
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