Thebe Kgositsile, known better as Earl Sweatshirt, made his Hip-Hop debut in 2010 with his mixtape Earl. Following a two-year hiatus from music, the Chicago born rapper released his first studio album, Doris (2013), named after his deceased grandmother.
The succession then follows with two albums – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside (2015), and Some Rap Songs (2018) – then his 2019 EP, Feet of Clay, which commemorates the rapper’s late, poet, father. After almost three years of retrospection, introspection, and the onset of fatherhood, Earl Sweatshirt dropped SICK! (2022), a 24 minute long, ten-song collection, curated by the poet himself.
In an interview with Dhruva Balram for Mixmag, a stark contrast is created between the artist as Thebe and himself as Earl, pointing out that his rap persona has dominated control since the rapper began his career.
It is with this album, SICK!, that Thebe has been let out to explore and make sense of the difficult times that he and Earl have experienced. Earl and Thebe, hand-in-hand, takes us through emotions, thought processes, and learning outcomes as we delve into SICK!: a melodious album filled with the depth of an artist who is sharing his growth with his audience.
SICK! is a compilation of easy, Lo-Fi listening, with a sprinkle to taste of his earlier rap style reminiscent of his first works, Earl. Earl uses poetic rhyme schemes, a method which some may find unconventional, but a style that allows precise articulation of his thoughts.
Considering his ancestry in poetry, Earl uses what he knows to convey his messages. Another mark of conceptional beauty in this album comes from the short duration of each song. While being an album that suits the 2022 attention span, Earl is making it obvious that SICK! is something to pay attention to.
In this album, Earl Sweatshirt utilizes a steady rhythm and rhyme flow. Each song feels calm because of how it’s paced. Not to mention the relaxing Low Fidelity music that accompanies his message to his fans: A beautiful delivery.
The only exception is “Titanic”, the ninth song on the album. The lyricism in, and flow of, “Titanic” pays homage to the rapper Earl was when he released his first project in 2010: a faster pace and a hype rapper attitude.
In essence, the manner in which the album is structured feels like a road trip with the homies: fun mixed with a little bit of deep, meaningful, conversations. SICK! is beautiful words with beautiful meanings made in beautiful articulations.
For example, the outro of “Vision” featuring Zeelooperz speaks to the young black community saying, “But what can I tell them? Tell them that they’re beautiful. Tell them that they’re Black”. “God Laughs” is the poet and rapper sharing his thoughts and opinions as he says, “Sensed hazel, made sense of it through prayer / Booze is a fool’s fragrance”.
“Old Friend”, “Vision”, and “SICK!” are three songs on the album that mention the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a message for his audience to resonate with. All the subliminal, and even literal, messages that Earl embeds in his art makes SICK! an album that you cannot listen to once, or you may miss some of the conscientious efforts that the two egos – Earl and Thebe – have to offer.
For the lack of a better word, SICK! is “woke”. Elements of appreciation in his art come from his ability to combine poetic techniques with Hip Hop to create smooth sounding songs.
Considering that SICK! has a similar feel to Earl’s previous EP, Feet of Clay, it’s clear that the rapper is letting his poetic side out a lot more, something that one can’t help but admire because it shows his growth both as a person and as a rapper.
SICK! is a reminder to appreciate what you have, to reflect on where you came from and to better yourself for the future. In the process of Earl giving Thebe room for them to express equally, the album shows the rapper’s mentality shift from dark and broody to hopeful and wholesome. All in all, SICK! is a fantastic album because of its replay value, poetic lyricism, and beautiful beats.
Words by Aarifah Loonat // Follow her on Instagram