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Photo: Ryosuke Tanzawa
Photo: Ryosuke Tanzawa

Earl Sweatshirt Gives His Own State of the Union Address on Sick!

The former Odd Future star’s latest sees him tackling the turbulent state of the world. 

by Ben Boddez

It’s always amusing to reminisce on the career paths of members of the groundbreaking and experimental hip-hop collective Odd Future. Between its most popular members, Tyler, the Creator found a way to translate his quirks into global arena tours, while Earl Sweatshirt became a hero of the grimy underground and one of hip-hop’s most reliably avant-garde creators. His recent projects Some Rap Songs and the Feet of Clay EP marked a new direction for him in this regard, as Sweatshirt completely subsumed himself in a spacier style with no-nonsense flows, a blatant disregard for conventional song structure, and poetic musings on deep-seated grief.

Appearing on the cover of his latest wearing a face mask, Sick! is no different when it comes to the latter sentiment. Sweatshirt updates his thoughts on the state of the world with his deep baritone vocals, every word landing with a decisive smack. He starts the track from the first second and waits for the instrumental to get on his tempo, instead of the other way around. The incredible wordplay (catch a quadruple entendre on “2010”) and poignant thoughts – this time on recent political riots and growing COVID fatigue – remain, but the instrumentals are some of Sweatshirt’s most accessible in years. It’s a bit of a welcome reprieve – when the clubs have been closed for so long, sometimes even fans of the most cerebral hip-hop stars want something they can move to while thinking through their latest existential crisis. 

Best Track: 2010