It’s been two years since Odd Future alum Earl Sweatshirt dropped his morbidly introspective sophomore album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. And what a journey it’s been for the soft-speaking, slyly shy “Chum” rapper. The boy who victoriously coughed out two teeth in the chilling “Earl” music video. The friend of Tyler, the Creator, who in the daybreak of their fame, had to disappear.
18 months ago, Earl Sweatshirt slowly resurfaced. At the Movement Festival in Detroit, Earl debuted a new track, “Hat Trick / Human Error“, which was produced by Sweatshirt’s producer alter-ego, RandomBlackDude. Over the cycled soul sample, Sweatshirt rapped about emerging through the fog of not knowing himself, the persuasive background noise of the rap industry, his own personal frictions. With a husky voice infiltrated with mysterious wisdom, Earl Sweatshirt commanded his fans better than ever before, leaving them with a humorous, albeit chilling bite: “Make some noise for human error—Earth is my turf but the hearse like a magnet.”
Then, nothing. No word of Earl Sweatshirt back in the studio with his Odd Future family. No tour dates. No new music, until now. On Thursday, Sweatshirt tweeted his excitement over the new single, “Nowhere2Go“—in all caps, nonetheless. And although Sweatshirt expressed anxiety in his interview with Zane Lowe, it seems that Sweatshirt has achieved a coping mechanism for his self-induced fear to perform, and produce. “I think that putting in a conscious effort toward completing thoughts is highly important right now,” he said.
“Nowhere2Go,” produced by Booliemane and Adé Hakim, unfurls over a fuzzy chaos, Earl’s rap-speak barely discernible over the music. But he’s there, and stronger than ever, his tone instantly comforting to the listener. Why? Because, for the first time, his music indicated that he is OK.
Happy is a stretch for Sweatshirt. It’s also a stretch to say that he’s back. The meditative verse doesn’t exactly encourage us to believe in a new Sweatshirt LP in 2019. But it does demonstrate his self-rule. Fans and Odd Future members are far from the days where they were desperately chanting “Free Earl!” into the ether. Because after being sent to a Samoan Reform School, and subsequently dipping away from the scene, it sounds like Sweatshirt has finally freed himself.