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Sample Sunday: Earl Sweatshirt - "Riot!"

Earl Sweatshirt is back. The Los Angeles rapper initially gained traction on MySpace, later joining Odd Future where he dropped his dynamic mixtape, Earl. His debut album, Doris, came along with his own Columbia-imprint label, Tan Cressida. After releasing his sophomore album in 2015, Earl slowed down with releases, facing hard times with mental illness and an estranged relationship with his father, South African poet, Keorapetse Kgositsile. In January 2018, his father passed away just short of a planned reunion with him. In his absence, Earl Sweatshirt has come up with Some Rap Songs to reflect on and share what he has been going through.

Earl is known to make dark, jaded music that is intensely introspective and often destructive. With the trouble he’s been through in recent years, suspicions grew as to what artistry that pain would bring. “Nowhere2go” was released as a single, forecasting the music that was to come. It’s faded and laggy, much like the rest of the production on the album. As a whole, Some Rap Songs is Earl’s darkest, most concise album to date. Not a single track hits the three-minute mark but he is able to fill every one to the brim with something meaningful.

“Riot!” is the album closer to Some Rap Songs. “That’s a Hugh Masekela song… It’s a rearrangement,” Earl said in a recent NPR interview. To sum it up easily, it could be titled “Riot by Hugh Masekela (Earl Sweatshirt Lo-Fi Remix).” It’s Masekela’s original track with an Earl influence, slowed down, staggered, and scratched. According to Earl, Gio Escobar of Standing on the Corner was the main contributor to the track’s production. Earl’s inspiration for the track came from Masekela himself, who was like an uncle to the rapper. Masekela died in January as well, adding to the already grief-filled atmosphere the album comes from. The joyful nature of the original “Riot” translates well into the new “Riot!,” acting as a contemplative comedown to an intense album. With a length of 1:06, it plays just long enough to get the feeling across, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Earl doesn’t do full instrumental tracks often, so when he does, there is an emphasis on them. “Riot!” is a great track; a laidback detox that ends the album off on a perfect note.

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