Five years ago he was a hot and bothered astronaut, jacking off to Asher Roth eating apple sauce. Earl was undeniably intelligent and a clever lyricist, but his 2010 release, ‘EARL’, was grotesque and it overshadowed his talent. Instead we saw an adolescent full of impotent potential, a parody of himself.
With ‘IDLSIDGO’, Earl Sweatshirt has demonstrated an intriguing and exciting personal growth. To say that he has toned down his lifestyle would be unfair; in an interview with ‘The Microphone’ Earl spoke of a ‘month of debauchery’ from which he gained the clarity he represents in this album. The difference between then and now is not his stimulus.. but his reaction to it. ‘IDLSIDGO’ is an album on the brink of true maturity. Depravity is channeled into sincere, honest and introspective songs, particularly in ‘Grief’. You still get the clever lyrics ‘Living in the scope, hairs crossed like adjacent streets’, but Earl’s work is no longer about reeling out a succession of lyrical punchlines, it’s about understanding himself.
Self-perception is really at the heart of this album. It is personally very important to the man; he has spoken of the frustration he had with Sony and its handling of the album’s release and has called it his first proper album. Odd Future mania led to Earl Sweatshirt and the rest of the group gaining more mainstream attention than they deserved and perhaps, needed. He has spoken of the pressure he was under to release ‘Doris’ (just listen to ‘Burgundy’), and the result is a collection of songs created over a year and a half apart, driven by external pressure rather than an personal desire to produce truly meaningful work.
That is certainly not the case with ‘IDLSIDGO’. This is an album carefully hand crafted, highlighted by the fact that Earl produced it himself. It is a snapshot of a moment in which debauchery became clarity and was channeled into creativity. The personal sincerity on the album is encapsulated in Na’vel’s verse on ‘DNA’, written 15 minutes after he learned of the death of a close friend.
Tonally the album is downbeat, slowed down and melodic, its introspective sound is representative of it as a whole. And that is the word which encapsulates what ‘IDLSIDGO’ is – introspective. This album is Earl catching the first glance of himself in the mirror, seeing himself for the first time and taking the time to study who he is. The impact is that, listening, you feel as if you’re not really invited. If you listen to this album you will find yourself inside Earl Sweatshirt’s head as he comes to realise who he is as an artist and as a human being. That makes this album fascinating but it also makes it exclusive. There is nothing here resembling a crowd pleaser, the only ‘upbeat’ song is ‘AM // Radio’. Instead you have a succession of songs in which Earl attempts to construct what it is to be him, at this moment.
‘IDLSIDGO’ is the switch between talented amateur and professional. Previous work has shown an engagement with psyche, but there hasn’t been the consistency or clarity to consider either ‘EARL’ or ‘Doris’ a piece of work in the same way that ‘IDLSIDGO’ is. Earl is a a talented musician and this a solid album with some good songs, ‘Huey’ and ‘Mantra’ especially, in addition to those mentioned already. But make no mistake, this is not commercial. If you are new to Earl this is perhaps not an album that will have you frothing at the mouth and queuing outside for concert tickets. But if you are familiar with him and his journey so far, this is a fascinating album which is part of an evolving form of self-discovery and maturation. With ‘IDSLIDGO’, Earl has progressed into a credible artist worthy of respect. You sense that the album is far from the finished article; rather it is the first solid stone on Earl’s career path. And that makes it very very interesting.
By Scott Pope