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EP Review: Feet of Clay by Earl Sweatshirt

On Vince Staples FM! last year, an interlude teased that, California rapper and Odd Future member, Earl Sweatshirt would be producing new music. He went on to put out his third studio album Some Rap Songs, an introspective, emotional project which has been compared to underground classic Madvillainy for its extraordinary lyricism and eccentric sample-based production. Less than a year later, after a quick Twitter announcement, Earl has released his second EP, Feet of Clay.

In a Pitchfork interview, Earl stated he was excited that Some Rap Songs was his last album with Columbia Records as he was “free to do riskier shit”. The production retains the same off-beat, hazy quality but, rather than a collage of layered samples, the instrumentals feel more minimalist and darker in tone, aided by the cover. In terms of subject matter, he continues to reflect on the past and his current mental state over 7 tracks stretching 15 minutes.

‘74’ opens the project with a lo-fi piano sample and Earl does what he does best, rapping an intricate verse with plenty of impressive wordplay and one-liners. ‘East’ has an interesting but extremely jarring Eastern accordion sample which, unfortunately, drowns out Earl’s hypnotic flow as he reflects over the loss of his loved ones and subsequent alcoholism.

‘Mtume’ continues on the same subject matter but does feel a little bit out of place on the EP due to the more traditional hip hop soul sample, courtesy of The Alchemist. ‘OD’ is back to samples of horns and vocals as Earl discusses his loneliness, displaying his storytelling ability. Fellow sLUms collaborator Mavi, who recently released his debut studio album Let the Sun Talk, provides potentially the best verse of the lot as he joins in on pondering over the past on ‘El Toro Combo Meal’.

Although the track ‘Tisk Tisk / Cookies’ is under 2 minutes, it is nevertheless divided into two halves. ‘Tisk Tisk’ finds Earl branding a former friend a snitch over a woozy beat, with samples from a relevant episode of The Boondocks, before ‘Cookies’ clears up the beat with jazzy loops for Earl to continue rapping about losing friendship. The closing track ‘4N’ is the longest track he has released in years at nearly 5 minutes and although featured artist Mach-Hommy’s intro runs a little too long, the rappers pen dark verses over a fuzzy, laid-back instrumental.

There isn’t a single point on the EP where it feels that Earl’s rapping dips below the incredibly high bar he has set for himself but, as a whole, the songs do not flow nearly as well as Some Rap Songs. It was an enjoyable surprise release just after Halloween and, although it may just feel like a collection of leftovers, any new Earl Sweatshirt is always welcome.

7/10

Tags: Earl Sweatshirt, EP review, Experimental, hip hop, rap

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