Concentrating ten tracks into 24 minutes admittedly sounds like a recipe for empty brevity on paper. However, rap fans already know about Thebe Kgositsile (Earl Sweatshirt) and his demonstrated power of shorter songs from his critically-acclaimed masterwork Some Rap Songs. Released early this year, SICK! follows the Chicago rapper’s trajectory of reduced album lengths, yet it plays like his most musically expansive. Assertive but atmospheric production buoys each track with a mix of nostalgic references and modern synth flourishes, and Kgositsile’s lyrics on the whole album are more contemplative than ever before.
Speaking to the musical divide between this and his past albums, SICK! features the fewest production credits for Kgositsile on record. Returning from collaborating on the previous Earl Sweatshirt album and his last EP Feet of Clay, Black Noi$e and modern legend The Alchemist handle most of the production duties, with a handful of other folks covering the rest. With this notable caveat, we can assume that Kgositsile felt that his priorities here were in the songwriting, other than his new fatherhood responsibilities, of course.
The Verdict on 'SICK!'
Though initially part of the Odd Future collective that included Tyler the Creator and Domo Genesis, the discography of Earl Sweatshirt evolved beyond the sophomoric tendencies of his past group into some of the most thoughtful rap music of the past decade. By developing his lyrics into their aesthetic peak and reflecting on the physical isolation caused by the worldwide pandemic, Kgositsile has created his most instantly engaging and likable album yet. Even if SICK! is not the same kind of despaired chaotic effort as his earlier albums, Earl’s continual distillation of his rap potency marks a significant stepping stone in the growth of his artistry.
1. Old Friend
4. Vision (feat. Zelooperz)
5. Tabula Rasa (feat. Armand Hammer)
7. Lobby (int)
8. God Laughs
10. Fire in the Hole