Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
7 out of 10
By Charles Louis Dominguez ’14
Earl Sweatshirt isn’t as mysterious as he once was.
A crucial member of the Odd Future collective, Sweatshirt’s strange disappearance from the spotlight, immediately following the release of his 2010 mixtape, “Earl,” started an entire movement spearheaded by his status as an enigma.
As it turned out, he was sent to a school in Samoa as the result of behavioral issues.
In 2012, Earl Sweatshirt returned to find that the Odd Future group he was a member of had broken in to the limelight of pop culture.
It’s been more than a year since Sweatshirt’s official return and, at long last, with “Doris,” we are able to listen to another full-length from the elusive teenager.
Still, the question remains: Is it good?
“Doris” has really great beats.
In the modern rap genre, production has proven to be an indispensable asset to anyone looking to distinguish themselves from other recording artists.
The success of artists like A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, Lil B, 2Chainz and Waka Flocka Flame all seem to suggest that lyrical prowess now takes the back seat to bumping beats.
Even Kanye West, an artist known for grandiose soundscapes and emphatic lyrics, uses writing sparingly on his latest full-length, Yeezus.
With production from seasoned veterans like The Neptunes and the RZA, as well as newcomers Tyler, the Creator and BADBADNOTGOOD, “Doris” is a clear winner in that department.
Beat selection is clearly a strong point on the album, with the general mood flowing incredibly well, remaining consistent yet interesting.
Tracks like “Pre” and “Hive” highlight the type of creepy mood that was done so well on “Earl” while still pushing new and creative directions.
Rather than using its production strength as a crutch, “Doris” takes the high road and combines interesting production with stellar lyricism, establishing Sweatshirt as an all-around talent.
The lyricism of “Doris” very clearly illustrates the maturation of Sweatshirt.
With nothing to compare “Doris” to besides “Earl,” the contrast between the focus and topics addressed between the albums is stark.
While Sweatshirt rhymes with the same flows that composed “Earl,” the topics addressed are less easily labeled mere shock value on “Doris.”
Rather than hiding personal issues under a thin veil of violence and shocking lyrics, Sweatshirt’s life seems to take the center-stage.
The confidence level of Sweatshirt is perhaps the album’s biggest surprise.
It’s clear that Earl Sweatshirt is uncomfortable with his fame, particularly because of the suddenness of it all. It’s difficult to accept such a drastic lifestyle change.
There’s a certain meekness to “Doris.”
Sweatshirt’s delivery of his verses seems filled with less bravado than was evident on “Earl.”
In general, Sweatshirt seems to let himself take the backseat while his collaborators drive the bus.
Although there are plenty of guest producers on “Doris,” the producer with the most credits on the album is Sweatshirt himself.
In perhaps one of the biggest displays of timidity, Sweatshirt adopts and credits himself with the moniker “randomblackdude.”
The biggest gripe I have with “Doris” is that it starts stronger than it ends.
Although the beats keep the album interesting and woven together quite nicely, Sweatshirt’s voice doesn’t contain enough inflexions to keep the listener from tiring.
Towards the end, “Doris” just exhausts me.
While I usually find Sweatshirt’s lack of emotion and very straightforward delivery to be charming, it works better on a project like “Earl” which had a much shorter running-time. In this case, it’s just too much of an otherwise good thing.
“Doris” provides its most rewarding listening experience if you select a handful of songs to listen to at a time.
Still, “Doris” is an album worthy of appreciation. Earl Sweatshirt proves himself an artist to watch, even without all the mystery of a delinquent in Samoa.