OFWGKTAâ€™s macabre maestro delivers a project thatâ€™s as solid and compelling as it is conflicted.
Earlâ€™s kept a relatively low profile since his return to the States from Samoa last year. He was all but reclusive until the release of â€śChumâ€ť last November, a record that showed the same lyrical prowess of his debut mixtape Earl minus the outlandish alludes to rape and kidnapping. After nearly a year since â€śChum,â€ť Doris is out and features a more mature, complex Earl.
That doesnâ€™t mean the album is some big soul-bearing excursion. For at least the first half of the album the tracks seem to alternate between introspection and a hardcore, Wu-Tang esque grit.
â€śPre,â€ť a braggadocious display featuring Earl and SK Laflare (Frank Oceanâ€™s cousin) opens the album with hardcore, somewhat typical raps over rumbling bass with a synth twang. The song sounds good, but feels a bit trap by OFWGKTA standards, if they have a standard sound at all. Then again, the irony of such a track plays right into this movementâ€™s MO.
The second track â€śBurgundy,â€ť produced by The Neptunes, is the crux of the album. More than any of the albumâ€™s 15 tracks, â€śBurgundyâ€ť shows the duality of Doris.
The song opens with Vince Staples mocking fans and critics general attitude toward Earl - indeed, most celebrities. â€śWhy you so depressed and sad all the time like a little bitch?â€ť Vince asks. â€śDonâ€™t nobody care about how you feelâ€¦ we want raps.â€ť Earl then goes into his struggles to finish Doris while his grandmother's health declined. Itâ€™s a sobering moment in the project, probably the most so.
The second verse pulls back a little in favor of more straight up bars like those in â€śHive,â€ť one of the lyrical high points of the album.
While â€śHiveâ€ť and â€śSasquatchâ€ť are examples of the albumâ€™s more freestyle (as in raps for rapâ€™s sake) records, â€śChumâ€ť is the height of introspection and honesty. â€śChumâ€ť is closely followed by â€śSunday,â€ť which features a stunning lyrical display by Frank Ocean. â€śBurgundyâ€ť functions as a topical nexus.
The topical duality gets a little loose in the later half of the project. That doesnâ€™t mean Doris becomes any less interesting though.
The Wu-Tang and MF Doom parallels are real here and itâ€™s clear where some of Earlâ€™s influences stem from. Take Â â€śMolassesâ€ť for example. Itâ€™s Earlâ€™s smooth flow over The RZAâ€™s legendary production with dark, twisted lyrics. â€śMolassesâ€ť could almost fit with anything from the Wuâ€™s acclaimed catalogue, not that it tries to. This song, along with the other hardcore records on the album, definitely has a distinctive identity. Â
Doris isnâ€™t exactly polarizing, but it's not for everyone either. Its fluctuations between macabre and meditative can be seen as a lack of cohesion, or deliberate juxtaposition. While some will see the plentiful features as breaks from Earlâ€™s often montone delivery, others can argue there are too many. Dorisâ€™ production is simultaneously dark, focused and meandering. Its imagery often borders on disturbing, though never quite as much so as on Earl.
Earl Sweatshirt presents a complex album that warrants multiple listens. At the very least, Doris solidifies Earlâ€™s place as one the most talented rappers and writers in the Odd Future collective. Perhaps even the best.
If Doris is any indication we can expect some great work from this young emcee.