Retrospective: Earl Sweatshirt - "I Don't Like..."

Earl Sweatshirt - I Don't Like        I Don't Go Outside
(Columbia 2k15)
Whether under or above ground, hip-hop was dripping in gloomy melancholia in 2k15, and none of the year’s releases personifies the genre’s funereal sub-aesthetics more than Earl Sweatshirt’s IDLSIDGO – his flow brusque and his self-production ramshackle. Tinny kick drums squelch like death rattles while the occasional piano sample or splash of chord organ whines in the background. Dark ambient loops haunt “Grief” like a wintry draft through the crack between a window’s pane and sill. Chopped-and-slowed jazz trickles through clumsy percussion on “AM // RADIO”. The record’s instrumentals are centered more around the empty spaces they leave behind than the sounds they create. Earl seems to emerge from these empty shadows rather than jump into them with enthusiasm – he lives inside the beats. Each new track is a vouyeristic look into the worlds he inhabits. They’re high-school diorama projects. We peek through the portal and catch him mid-breakdown on “Grief”, an introspective, realistic portrayal of anxiety that finds Earl “stranded in a mob”, retreating from the crowd of “snakes” to take refuge in a Xanax canister. He prays for his phone to break on “Faucet”, a track birthed from the tension between Earl and his mother after leaving home as a teenager. He and RATKING’s Wiki reminisce about childhood on the aforementioned “AM // RADIO” before Earl expresses his apathy towards his raving cult fanbase. This record is a perfect portrait of the sort of anxiety that stems from the vast interconnectivity of our day-to-day lives, be it online or in real life. The distinction between the two is getting blurrier, anyhow. In an interview with Pitchfork back in 2013, Earl expressed his disgust with Twitter, but to this day he’s quite active on the site. For the socially anxious, the pull away from social interaction is often weaker than the forces that pull us back into the realm of communication. IDLSIDGO demonstrates that feeling of frustration, of bitter aloneness perfectly. I am part of the first generation to have no memory of a time when the internet was not in widespread youth and I'm looking quite forward to analyzing more of the sort of art that stems from this new paradigm.