Hip-hop’s dark horse is back and he’s not fucking around.
YEEAAAAOEOOEOEOE TO SAY IM EXCITED TO B GIVING YALL MUSIC IS BIG UNDERSTATEMENT. THIS YEAR BEEN THE ROUGHEST OF MY LIFE, BUT HERE WE ARE !!! https://t.co/boQ2tTJmgo
— thebe kgositsile (@earlxsweat) November 8, 2018
Last we heard from Earl Sweatshirt, thing’s weren’t exactly looking optimistic. After the genre-transcendent cultural circus of Odd-Future’s flame died out, it left the individuals on their own navigating fame and artistry for themselves. Despite mixed results from the group’s B-listers and extreme success for Tyler and Frank, the transition, or perhaps just life in general, seemed to take the toughest toll on Earl Sweatshirt. From his reckless debut mixtape “Earl” we’ve seen his solo projects take deeper and darker turns as the young prodigy grew older, wiser, more transparent. With “Nowhere2go,” finally dropping today, Earl’s first single back after his hauntingly honest “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside” feels more focused and refined than ever, utilizing an eclectic and mysterious beat as a backdrop to showcase his classic dark themes into his newer, more matured context.
“Tryna refine this shit. I redefine myself. First I had to find it. I couldn’t find a friend, had to rely on my wits.” Earl Sweatshirt’s newest solo effort feels like a public status update regarding where he’s been and how everything’s been going. Despite mentions of depression and suicidal thoughts that his audience is all too familiar with, his honesty and transparency in Earl’s vocal performance still comes as refreshing. With words like “Even when I hit a low, I still give thanks to the most high,” Earl assures us here that despite a long journey to this point, his head is in the right place. For some of his early supporters, it still feels strange hearing his much deeper, more weathered voice shuffle around the track, but it signals the genesis of something new.
Paired eloquently with the poignant lyrics on this track is the strange and chaotic beat that backs it. Taking a seemingly random group of samples and blending them into strange harmony, this beat is one of the most alarmingly powerful hip-hop sequences we’ve seen this year. The most prominent element of this instrumental is undoubtedly that beautiful, flaring guitar riff that flickers in and out of the background every few bars. This paired with the distorted vocal tones and choppy drum hits seem to illustrate the core themes of the track: messy, yet resilient and articulate.
After a wildly fluctuating career that has spanned a plethora of moods and ideas “Nowhere2go” feels like just where Earl Needs to be. After watching his work decline in optimism from “Earl,” to “Doris,” to “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside,” this track proves that all of these phases were essential to his character now. Despite the reclusive nature of Earl Sweatshirt (See “I Don’t Go Outside,”) it becomes clearer now that this artistic approach is the right one for him, even if it’s not what his followers want. The strange yet important truth for Earl, however, is that, as this performance attests, he’s always been creating what he wants.