Splendour is over for another year and those of us too unorganised and broke to attend it have a painful month ahead of us hearing from our mates who did. ‘Splendour in the Mud’, classic joke you fool.
As bitter as I may still be, early last week I got a message saying I’d be seeing none other than Earl Sweatshirt, who thankfully decided to play a few sideshows on top of his Splendour slot. One of the youngest members of the now dead yet forever notorious hip-hop collective Odd Future, Earl over the last few years has quickly established himself as a widely respected solo artist. His 2013 debut LP Doris, which spawned the huge singles ‘Chum’ and ‘Whoa’, garnered significant critical acclaim with its stripped down and dirty production paired with intense reflections on youth, insecurity and decline. Fast-forward to 2015, and Earl’s managed to produce a fucking great follow-up LP entitled I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt, solidifying his position at the forefront of a new generation of hip-hop artists.
Earl’s style of rapping isn’t particularly technical in comparison to artists like Kendrick or Chance the Rapper, but the stories that unfold in his songs are equally, if not more, layered and emotionally charged. His delivery of them is paced in such a way that each line resonates through the aggressive and raw beats, which really makes the music accessible beyond other hip-hop artists who jam pack their verses to the tune of a machine-gun. Usually at a show like this, it’s only the obviously hardcore fans that punch out verse after verse, word for word, but it seemed like everyone knew Earl’s lyrics. Or maybe they were all hardcore fans..
Prince of Wales is a weird space and Earl’s presence on stage there was interesting. Compared to a lot of his contemporaries, he downplays his image and performance style, slowly moving around the stage like a lanky stoner. Works with his music though. Of course, most patrons seemed to be hugely into his performance – most of the energy didn’t come from the stage, but the crowd. Odd Future fans have always had a reputation for being loyal and rabid, and I spose that’s carried through to Earl, his popularity reflected in the fact that the show was sold out.
Overall, the sound production of the gig was on point. The simplicity of Earl’s beats kind of lent itself to really fucking exaggerating the bass frequencies without it resulting in any muddiness or anything that would otherwise plague a mix. In my mind the abrasiveness of Earl’s music isn’t properly reproduced through home media devices and to get a true sense of what he and his producers intended for the albums, hearing it live or I guess just loud is pretty important. Refreshingly, the vocals weren’t lost or obstructed by said bass. Well done, DJ and sound guy.
I don’t think anyone would have walked away disappointed from this show. Every artist has written a song about how hard it is to be young, how hard growing up is, yes yes. But Earl does it in such a way that it feels completely fresh and relatable, the emotional intensity of which makes for an increasingly unique experience. I hope Earl keeps evolving as an artist and doesn’t get bogged down by anything, because what he’s doing and where he’s heading is fucking great.
Hometown: Los Angeles.
Latest LP: I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt, released March 23rd, 2015.
Sounds like: Odd Future but a lot better, anguish and a heavy stone.
Say what? Earl gave a stage invader a left hook to the head the other week at his show in Sydney, classic.
Deaf, cold and drunk, Leo signing off.