Sick is a spiritual and introspective journey, showing that Earl Sweatshirt is coming out of his shell. This album is also marked by its musical Trap tone that makes it an exception in the repertoire of its author.
This new opus "Sick" has all the air of a new cycle for one of the most important rappers of the last 10 years, a potential evolution that does great good. I am of course referring to Earl Sweatshirt, a unique and visionary artist. The young Thebe Neruda Kgositsile of his real name clearly dominates the underground Hip Hop, by his record and his influence, making him the antithesis of the contemporary rapper, without bling bling, without oversized ego, enough to make the purists and conservatives drool. So far Earl Sweatshirt's career shows few moments of weakness, without having the slightest pretension of it. Several different cycles make up his career, that of the young teenager of Odd Future very brutal by a Hardcore Hip Hop limit morbid, until his consecration in the middle of the previous decade when he enters his experimental phase, in particular by the means of Abstract Hip Hop. Since then, Earl Sweatshirt's art has become very subtle, tortured, poetic that it is sometimes complicated to draw all its secrets. That's part of what makes it unique. If you add to that, his ability to build works that stand out from the rest, with an absolutely unconventional design, Earl has all the makings of an exclusive artist who attracts attention.
After a more disappointing "Feet Of Clay", the Californian rapper thought it was high time to change land-scapes, especially when the world was turned upside down by the pandemic. The latter will give birth to Sick, an album that opens up to the world through a more spiritual state of mind than ever, while the author had often accustomed to explore his previous anxiety and the dark thoughts of a man flayed alive. In another sense, it is difficult to understand the exact meaning of "Sick", because there are examples and counter-examples within the same album. Yet we finally understand that "Sick" sounds more like a step towards personal rebirth. We find again this very intense and concise format with a sound adventure of only 24 minutes, which takes shape in 10 short songs, a peculiarity of the artist who draws all the essence of his art as a spontaneous emotion that springs up in an elementary state. This phenomenon can be described as something close to the forces of nature, it is capricious, sincere, sudden. What really changes compared to the previous album, beyond the state of mind and the thematic approached, is especially this eclecticism in the musical colors approached, which potentially marks a new opening for the artist towards the Trap. Until now, Earl Sweatshirt's albums were based on a relatively homogeneous formula, making the global atmosphere a concept in itself that singularly described each work.
In the space of one minute and 19 seconds, Earl Sweatshirt propels you into the universe of "Sick" like an uppercut with "Old Friend". We do not necessarily understand immediately the complexity of managing in a reduced time to achieve such a feat, but it is primarily a story of chemistry. Speaking of which, it's no surprise that the musical architect is The Alchemist himself, with a very gloomy instrumental, chilling as an autumn weather. There are all the elements in "Old Friend" to say that this is it, the Sick adventure begins. "2010" is for me one of the symbols that characterizes the evolution observed on Sick. It is an ultra psychedelic Trap/Cloud Rap song, produced by Black Noise (a major actor of Sick), articulated around loops transformed in reverse. All this fits together and evokes with melancholy Earl's past, like a return to the past, through a paralyzing introspection. This way of delivering poetry and storytelling that we already knew Earl had, as catchy as brilliant, often exceeds my high expectations, like for example "Caught a feelin', momma had me out Temple/ Not religious, we was really out Philly". It's a small writing detail that makes all the difference. Frankly, the instrumentation of "2010" is incredible, and Earl Sweatshirt boldly respects it by delivering a stellar performance, only monotonous in order to precisely support the whole idea of his poetry "In the dark inside, we was real hungry / On a seven of the five, we was real hungry", as if his metaphor became physical. "2010" is not the most brilliant of the author's repertoire, but it is undoubtedly a key moment of Sick.
The eponymous song "Sick" continues on the same path as the previous one, with an absolutely hypnotic Trap instrumentation. We observe a kind of descent into hell from "Old Friend" to "Sick" by the increasingly suffocating way of delivering its poetry. Suddenly, "Vision" sounds like a revelation that pushes the author to see things differently. With the help of Detroit rapper ZelooperZ, "Vision" is one of Earl Sweatshirt's best songs in recent years. The instrumentation is boosting, it's a dose of pure motivation. The two rappers crys-tallize their self-criticism with conviction and power. We can say it, this song is a potential competitor to SOTY. By bringing back Armand Hammer, Hip Hop Underground's favorite duo of the moment, Earl Sweat-shirt already knows he's hitting it big. This isn't their first collaboration, but this is probably their best. We find the trio on a production Drumless / Abstract Hip Hop as we are used to finally to put it in the best possible dispositions. Earl also called on beatmakers Rob Chambers (Rbchambrs) who works for MIKE, as well as Theravada, unknown to the battalion. "Tabula Rasa" is 4 minutes long, a rare format for Earl, for 3 hooks without chorus. We logically find a demonstration of strength, from beginning to end, punctuated by a disordered poetry that describes the evolution of a human being according to what he lives.
The second part of the project does not lose interest, on the contrary it only supports the fact that Earl Sweatshirt is touched by the grace. The Alchemist takes over again with an absolutely bluesy Jazz Rap, as if he was predestined to be the conductor of the project. Not surprisingly, Lye is a sonic and poetic slap in the face, and I admire Earl Sweatshirt's gift for adding soul to an instrumental that has been done a million times before. The suspended and parallel God Laughs shows that the Sick album manages to work despite its divergence of musical styles. We go from a Trap song to Abstract Hip Hop without noticing anything. The whole is very homogeneous, the trap songs are more introspective, while the others are more meditative. The whole makes that these 2 states of mind meet and manage perfectly to highlight the concept of existentialism that the author advocates. "Titanic" reminds me of the "Doris" era, when Earl acted like a boxer coming to tame the instrumental. This lesson denotes the usual nonchalance of the author for something very rhythmic, moreover in my memories I do not seem to have an example of such a fast pace from him. The producer Black Noise offers us again a high level instrumental, a kind of psychedelic, spatial and futuristic beat that rebuilds a possible opening of evolution for the Trap Sincerely, we'll have to watch it closely. But for now, it is necessary to focus on the excellent "Fire In The Hole", a lesson of writing that comes alive like a fire. What's really remarkable is the paradoxical choice to have opted for a soft, jazzy and languid instrumentation that lulls you from start to finish, but ultimately describes a certain chaos that settles in. It's as if life goes on despite a world in ruins. Earl Sweatshirt seems to be making peace with himself and is ready to move on despite the context. Poetically it is an absolutely phenomenal song. To conclude I will say that "Sick" is an obvious comeback from Feet of Clay. I really like the new Trap direction, the concept of the project, however I would have liked Earl Sweatshirt to get out of his comfort zone more often in terms of interpretation.
|1||Old Friend / 70|
|2||2010 / 90|
|3||Sick! / 70|
|4||Vision / 100|
|5||Tabula Rasa / 90|
|6||Lye / 80|
|8||God Laughs / 80|
|9||Titanic / 80|
|10||Fire in the Hole / 90|