Review: Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside doubles as both an apt description of its content and directions for the listener—this concise, introspective trip through Earl Sweatshirt‘s mind should be listened to in solitude with a nice pair of headphones. To hear the album any other way wouldn’t really be worth the experience, as I Don’t Like Shit becomes more rewarding the deeper you are able to thrust yourself into Earl’s state of mind.

Though I Don’t Like Shit is nearly as short as his debut, Earl has changed drastically since his self-titled album dropped in 2010. Containing more personal tracks like “Chum,” Doris marked the beginning of a transition away from Odd Future’s shock value lyrical style that originally birthed him. However, as Tyler, the Creator put it on the introduction to “Woah,” bits of “that old fucking 2010 shit,” still seeped through the cracks, making Doris more of a gestation period between Earl leaving the conformities of Odd Future and embracing a style that’s wholly his own. Tracks like “Woah” or “epaR” are non-existent on I Don’t Like Shit. As he recently said in an interview with NPR:

“I feel like this is my first album. This is the first thing that I’ve said that I fully stand behind, like the good and the bad of it. Because it’s just — I’ve never been this transparent with myself or with music. I’ve never been behind myself this much.”

Other than a single Left Brain-produced track (Earl impressively produced the rest of the album himself under production pseudonym RandomBlackDude), the rest of Odd Future is nowhere to be found. It makes sense that, in the process of carving his own niche, Earl would want to distance himself from his original crew. Earl was young when he blew up (even by Odd Future standards), and teenagers are impressionable. It’s very possible that in the process of seeking acceptance from his peers, he conformed to the style Odd Future was pushing, rather than moving forward with the type of music he wanted to make (which is somewhat ironic considering how anti-conformist and anti-authority Odd Future’s early music was). The only member of Earl’s crew left from the EARL days is Vince Staples, who, funnily enough, at one point was apparently not much liked by OF frontman Tyler, the Creator (Vince has since denied the beef). Instead, Earl sports a gaggle of new friends, including Wiki of alternative hip-hop group Ratking and A$AP Mob affiliate, Da$H, going so far as to allude to the crumbling relationships with his OF brethren:

“Name getting bigger than the difference between us
Niggas is fake, I limit the features I give ’em”

Thankfully, one thing that hasn’t changed on I Don’t Like Shit is Earl’s ability as a writer. Whether he’s rapping about murdering cops or missing his father, Earl has always been deft with a pen. Rather than venting his frustrations through violent, drug-fueled fantasies, he expresses himself through brutal honesty and tangible, personal narratives. Drug use is still frequently referenced, but this time around, it’s clear that these are true instances of self medication, rather than over-the-top, cartoonish falsehoods. His “bitch say the spliff take the soul from [him].” He “spent the day drinking and missing [his] grandmother” and is “scrambling for Xanax out the canister to pop.” He’s “surrounded with a gaggle of 100 fucking thousand kids” who he “can’t get mad at when they want a pound or pic.” For the first time in Earl’s career, his emotions feel frantic and immediate across the entire project. If you’re not paying attention, it’s hard to tell when one track ends and another starts—it’s short and cohesive to the point that he almost could have released it as a single, 30-minute MP3.

Though the Odd Future era may have come to a close, it’s hard to deny that their influence is still sprinkled throughout the project, especially regarding Earl’s production. The carnival-esque “Huey” is reminiscent of EARL‘s “Stapleton,” and the drums that occur right after the end of Earl’s verse scream Tyler, the Creator. Regardless of how he feels now, Earl’s work with OF was important for his growth as an artist. Still, at this point in his career, one can’t help but think he might be better off without them in the long run—it’s given him the space to develop his own sound. As fun as Odd Future may be at times, their absence isn’t for naught, as I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside is Earl’s first project that feels truly his own. The departure may feel jarring to long-time fans, but if you’re still feeling lost, take some listening advice from Earl himself:

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