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Album Review: Earl Sweatshirt’s “FEET OF CLAY”

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Earl review
Edward Benner /THE REVIEW
Earl Sweatshirt returns to his experimental sound introduced in “Some Rap Songs” on “Feet of Clay.”

Senior Reporter

Earl Sweatshirt surprise dropped a short EP entitled “FEET OF CLAY” on Nov. 1, the Los Angeles native is not known to release albums in quick succession, so this release was bewildering to fans since the rapper just released his experimental opus, “Some Rap Songs,” last Fall.

The album sounds similar to “Some Rap Songs” but with a more creative and rap-focused edge. The opener, “74” starts with the line “You like Amare Stoudemire with dreads,” a hilarious punchline that signals some change from the self-reflection found on his last record. Sweatshirt uses Stoudemire, a former NBA player who was a member of many teams, to insult his competition as fake.

The lyrics are a point of difference from his last record. On this EP, Sweatshirt reverts slightly to the braggadocious bars of his past but mixes them with the conscious and mindful lyrics he has become known for. A great example of this is on “TISK TISK / COOKIES,” where he transitions between bragging about his dominance over the competition to talking about his journey through life almost seamlessly. On the first part of the song, he raps “I wish I knew you when you wasn’t a snitch,” and on the second, “The silliness in you, I mourn / The moments that’s tender and soft,” remembering a loved one through their many natures.

Although this is a separate EP, the experimental sound is in line with what fans have come to accept from Sweatshirt. To make a Radiohead comparison, if “Some Rap Songs,” was Sweatshirt’s “Kid A,” then “FEET OF CLAY,” is his “Amnesiac.” The record continues the trend of experimental rap that Sweatshirt ventured into last year.

The samples are crisp and create an atmosphere unlike any other. The track “MTOMB,” stands out as having the most traditional production of any song on “FEET OF CLAY.” Other songs, like “EAST” are confusing, disorienting and attack the listener’s brain with a vitriol. There are accordion samples and cheering looped over and over until the end of the track, pushing the bounds of what is experimental in hip-hop.

Experimental does not necessarily mean good, however. There are many times in music history where experimental music has fallen flat on its face, staying an experiment and never becoming part of the genre it intended to blend with. “FEET OF CLAY” is part of a continuing trend in underground hip-hop with rappers such as MIKE or Navy Blue who have been making music like Sweatshirt for several years.

Sweatshirt’s experimentalism ignores genre conventions and has isolated a large portion of his fan base who consider albums like “Doris” his best work. This integrity is what helps propel “FEET OF CLAY” onto a new level. Even though the EP is only seven tracks and 15 minutes long, what Sweatshirt provides to lovers of underground hip-hop is valuable for much more than the run time.

The EP finishes with the longest song Sweatshirt has released in years. The song, “4N,” runs just over four minutes and features rapper Mach-Hommy, who is a part of the underground in which Sweatshirt has become a poster-boy for. The track features an alternate version of Sweatshirt’s verse from “The Bends” and showcases Sweatshirt’s rapping ability in the extreme. His ability to take this style of hip-hop and stretch it over the extremely short run times that he has been utilizing recently is refreshing.

This new EP shows fans of Sweatshirt that this new sound is here to stay, love it or hate it.

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