Earl Sweatshirt doesn’t make his entrance on “Doris” until more than half way through the first song. His opening verse comes after a little pop in the music about two minuets into “Pre.” It’s low-key, but memorable and long overdue, much like the buildup and release of “Doris,” his first studio album. Here, Earl Sweatshirt makes his debut feel like an anticipated comeback.
Despite only being known through various mixtapes, a couple of guest verses and a mysterious personal life, he’s always managed to stand out from the Odd Future hip-hop collective. On “Doris” he shows us why he has people so enamored.
The album brings the darkness of Odd Future without the sideshow act of snot nose, southern California mayhem. Unlike Tyler, the Creator (who makes the appearance you’d expect from him on “Sasquatch”) and other members of the Odd Future rap collective, Sweatshirt hits a full range of emotions. But even when he’s thoughtful, or even sweet, it’s gritty. The best example of this comes early on the lo-fi confessional of “Sunday.” “I’m faithful despite what’s on my face and in my pocket and this is painfully honest and when I say this I vomit,” he says before a slouching beat shuffles in. And to break these lyrics down describes the Earl Sweatshirt aesthetic.
He’s an architect of atmosphere — the film noir style builds throughout “Doris” in a tense narrative. And while he has this tone locked down, it can feel a little overdone at times — especially the latter half of the album —, making it tough for individual songs to stand out from the shadows. But when you listen to his content — conversational rhymes driven through a calm demeanor — the darkness is fitting, even though excessive.
On Chum he raps, “It’s probably been 12 years since my father left — left me fatherless. And I just used to say I hate him in dishonest jest, when honestly I miss this n****, like when I was six. And every time I got the chance to say it I would swallow it.” It’s a full-formed thought, more of a personal essay rather than the diary entry you’d expect from someone Sweatshirt’s age (19).