December 17th, 2018 | Album reviews

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Some Rap Songs
Columbia/Tan Cressida

Earl Sweatshirt’s Some Rap Songs is a jarring and deeply personal album that reminds us he’s a writer with few peers. The experience is bewildering, vulnerable and wry in both form and function. With truncated phrasing that captures full ideas and non-sequiturs in equal measure amid bold production, Some Rap Songs demands the listener be fully present for the ride. The belly-busting humor and sarcasm that Earl is known for is still here, but it takes a back-seat to reflection. The songs—many self-produced, some made with like-minded collaborators—are like paintings with many coats, at times complementary and at times contrasting. Sweatshirt often uses a Basquiat-esque approach of obscuring select elements, knowing that treating certain ideas as secret can give them a higher value. This is apparent throughout, but perhaps most pronounced in the crescendo of the album, “Playing Possum,” a powerful and bittersweet juxtaposition of the voices and words of our author’s late father and living mother—with no raps. Earl has lived under the weight of scrutiny and merciless expectations since he was a teen. That may be another reason his newest album demands such concerted effort—it’s one way to separate the wheat from the chaff. You can like or not like the album—and folks have passionate feelings both ways, ranging from praise to confusion—but that’s almost beside the point. That Some Rap Songs provokes such strong and varied reactions in the first place speaks to the weight of the work.

—sweeney kovar