Earl Sweatshirt’s third studio album, Some Rap Songs, is more of a man overcoming his problems with anxiety and depression while remembering the dangers of this state of mind. It is 15 tracks in total that lasts for 24 minutes. Earl opens the album with his journey through rehab and his acknowledgement of alcohol and drug abuse on “Shattered Dreams.” The theme of the album is stated in a sample from James Baldwin’s “The Struggle.” Earl uses his discussion of depression, anxiety, addiction, and his newfound musical resurgence as “imprecise words” for how he has dealt with these topics since his 2016 record, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. The following song “Red Water” is a departure from the last in both the production of the instrumental and the tone of Earl’s voice.
The instrumental is a sample from his earlier project, “Solace” as track takes on a more decrepit and decayed atmosphere where as Earl contrasts this with him confidently announcing himself as king, nearly shouting towards the end. His voice echoes as if he were at the end of a tunnel, which could be an allusion to his rehab and may be suffering from withdrawal as he’s recovering. He references his father and his role on Earl’s life. The lines, “Papa called me chief” is first blurred out at the start of the track in reference to his father leaving him and his mother. Another line about his late father is, “Blood on my father, I forgot another dream,” where Earl calls out his father for having a role in his lack of hope and motivation and could be calling back to a line off the Doris track, “Burgundy,” “and when them expectations raising cause daddy was a poet right?” where Earl is often compared to his late father because of their similar careers. “Cold Summers” is as juxtaposed to the theme of the album as winter in July.
Earl points out his long departure from music following the release of I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside, but it doesn’t go any deeper than that. The song contains themes ranging from break-ins to substance abuse. “Nowhere2go” is the first single to come out before the album’s release and my initial reaction was mixed. The very minimalist and static instrumental was disorientating and hard to get past. The song itself almost serves more as a bridge to Earl truly coping with his depression and drug abuse. Themes of finding yourself is throughout this track as Earl describes his mental illness as a slave on his soul and that he’s “found a new way to cope” either through his music or his newfound creativity. His reliance to himself is more fleshed out as even though he had friends who tried to get him out of his depression, he had to redefine himself to save himself. “December 24” and “Ontheway!” aren’t the most introspective tracks but do give us some understanding of his relationship between himself and hood culture. “The Mint” is the second single to promote the album. It features New York rapper/producer Navy Blue who appears on the first verse. “The Mint” is a solemn message about corrupting yourself with toxins that seem to be so ever present in life. The line “Bumpin’ shoulders with the devil in disguise” is a cliche but entirely necessary to be said when being trapped in your own vices. The outro “lotta blood to let” is powerful imagery for the way he views this cleanse in his life is akin to the practice of bloodletting. “The Bends,” “Loosie,” “Azucar,” “Eclipse,” and “Veins” hold more of the same beats about Earl that the rest of the album carries. I enjoy “Azucar,” and “The Bends,” for their lyrical complexity as well as just their production. “Playing Possum” is by far the most emotional track on the album and yet Earl never appears on the song. It’s just the recordings of his mother, Cheryl Harris, speaking in a ceremony and his father reciting his poem “Anguish Longer Than Sorrow.” This sounds more as Earl trying to bridge the gap his father created when he left his family as he planned for this track to be a surprise for his parents, but unfortunately, Earl’s father, Keorapetse Kgositsile, passed away January 3rd, 2018.
The last line from Kgositsile, “To have a home is not a favor,” can be interpreted as trying to maintain the idealistic meaning of what a home is when yours is lost. “Riot!” is the after credits closer to the album that perfectly captures its tone. Through no words and only samples of Maskela, Earl seems to capture his rampant emotions and bizarre adventure in just an impactful and lasting instrumental track. When the horns come in, you almost can’t help but smile as they triumphantly blare out a carefree tone for the best ending to his long journey.
Some Rap Songs is definitely worth several listens to with Earl’s powerful imagery and lyrical acrobatics that make multiple listens far more enjoyable. This album is an amazing 9 out of 10. It goes far beyond anything else he’s put out just because of its raw emotion and complete need for the artist to come out in his music.