Rap's Modern Masterpiece: Earl Sweatshirt's "Stapleton"
Tomorrow, Saturday February 22nd at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, the once-elusive Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt takes the stage for his second of two New York shows. It's hard to believe it's already been four years since Odd Future first organically blew up via word (among other things) of mouth and the spread of their free music and eye-popping visuals leading to one of hip-hop's most dedicated fanbases. But for all the attention given to their multimedia efforts and hilarious social antics, it seems easy for some to forget what absolute talents the entire crew are possesses. Case in point, Earl's absolutely incredible 2010 masterpiece "Stapleton," simply among the absolute best rap tracks recorded this decade.
Anna Frodesiak via Wikimedia Commons Earl Sweatshirt of Odd Future
"Stapleton" was the closing track on Earl's debut album Earl. Released for free to coincide with the "Earl" video that saw the group appear on computer screens coast-to-coast, the project was, for many, the first addictive taste of the crew that inspired listeners to check further into what Odd Future had to offer. Thus, Earl was completed when the outfit were still largely unknown. The youngest of the crew, Earl's performance was nothing short of an absolute rap prodigy. His flows, storytelling and turns-of-phrase were all off the charts and immediately placed him among the most technically proficient MCs in the world. Bear in mind, Earl did this at the age of 15. That's why, when people disregard the more shocking aspects and darker humor of the record as being "sophomoric," they fail to realize that Earl was the age of the average high school freshman at the time. Pigeonholing him in that manner is essentially conceding that he's mature for his age.
But trying to impose some bizarre unspoken standard of morality onto Odd Future at this time, and especially Earl, was to miss the fact that these were teenagers making music about teenage shit, they just happened to do it in a freshly creative way at a hyper-proficient level. So while Earl's subject matter does contain a lot of sex, murder and mayhem, it's done with the glee of a tween sneaking a high-octane Rated R movie out of a video rental store or the thrill of that first time using the internet to search for porn. Again, the reason Earl found such an audience is because these energies were transferred into making some incredible music.