I’m a tourist when it comes to hip-hop, can’t lie and suggest otherwise – and ain’t no shame in that anyway, for all this talk of adhering to the culture, of respecting the elements you know there’s a bunch of people spouting all that and then nerding it up in-between favourite gigs and albums; not so much a lifestyle choice as some forced attempt at suggesting a lifestyle – one they don’t actually lead, or more to the point follow.
I haven’t liked the Odd Future stuff – apart from Frank Ocean’s album and the, er, odd thing here and there – I detested Tyler, The Creator’s fake anger violent overload. But fuck man, I love this Earl Sweatshirt album. Maybe it’s the blunted canvas, reminding me, peripherally, of things like Madvillainy – or the way Earl smirk-raps the absurd lines; like he’s taking the piss just a little bit, so in on the joke/s since, ya know, he’s the one making them.
There are also Axelrod samples to spot (Centurian) and grooves that float and waft (Chum); there’s a sense of menace within the groove/s (Hive), there are short, perfect snapshots (Molasses) and longer explorations where the mood is more about odd things from the past rather than Odd Future (Hoarse). I even dig the couple of tunes featuring Tyler, The Creator. So go figure.
There are sharp lines and there are dumb lines, there’s some version of honesty here that I like; manufactured, but never manicured. Finally, what it is, actually, is the crafting of songs, of music – a trim, taut album – no fat, all lean and all ideas-driven. So you get the dusty old soul samples and the big see-if-you-can-spot-this-one drum breaks to lead in, you get the slick/ish production from big-name guests (Ocean, RZA, The Neptunes) but you don’t get all that run-off; that landfill hip-hop bullshit, silly skits and daft chorus-lines that trace around a silly pop song and feel phoned-in on first listen. Instead you get an album that’s been rubbed raw, boiled down to the very essence – so full of ideas. There’s so much to hear in this. And it arrived at the right time for me – not just because there’s a tour coming – it’s one of a small handful of albums that’s got me back on a hip-hop kick.
But fuck the labels – this is just a great album. Wouldn’t matter to me what genre was listed – you hear this, no name, no cover, no labels attached and you’re in. You’re loving it. Because it’s good. Really good. Best (hip-hop) album I’ve heard in a long (long) time.