After a cult-classic mix tape and a stay in a boarding school for at risk boys, Earl (real name Thebe Neruda Kgositsile) has returned to the industry. More mature than the teen that rapped about assault and violence, his debut solo album, Doris, seems like an effort to deflate the hype that surrounded his initial work.
Subtle, subdued and almost completely without a memorable hook, Doris stands out from the works of fellow OFWGKTA members Tyler The Creator and Frank Ocean and flows in a lazy, but engaging way.
The album seems to have been designed as a platform for Earl’s true talent, which is wordplay. Despite being 19 years old, there are few people in the industry that come close to the almost flawless way in which Earl creates music.
Doris is clearly the work of someone uninterested in impressing, which is also the point where it fails. The irregular, jarring beats and samples are coupled with Earl’s often deeply sombre view of the world. On “Hive”, he laments the difficulty of urban life, and “Chum” is an unsettling autobiographical song that deals with his disappearance from public life and his relationship with his estranged father, South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile. All this adds up to a compelling, albeit unnerving album.
Earl Sweatshirt has unanimously impressed with his raw talent and he has focused on moving away from the shock tactics of his mentor, Tyler The Creator on this album.
Doris is a genre-altering work. It looks like this time, Earl is here to stay.