It’s amazing how much a person can mature between ages 15 and 19, and how immature they can still be after reaching that age. This is exactly what we’ve witnessed between Earl’s first independent album/mixtape, Earl, which was released when he was 16, and now his official debut studio album at age 19. He’s no longer rapping about raping and killing people, but he still rhymes damn near every syllable he spits, and still loves rhyming for the sake of rhyming. This doesn’t mean he’s gone all serious on us now either though; the very beginning of this album has him trolling on us as he gets a random rapper (apparently Frank Ocean’s cousin) to rap a very generic, boring verse as the first verse we hear on the album, before we have a sigh of relief when Earl finally takes the mic.
The second song onwards shows us just how much Earl has matured, as he raps about the pressure put on him to make a great album based on all the hype he’s been getting, all while juggling relationships with friends, girlfriends and family. There’s also the lead single, “Chum”, where he goes into detail about growing up without his dad around. While he does touch on these topics to show us he can be introspective, there are also plenty of tracks where he raps for the sake of rapping to keep his day-one fans happy. I find Earl is at his best when he’s just focused on rhyming almost every syllable in a verse, causing you to play the song a zillion times just to figure out what he’s really saying; this is my favourite aspect of hip-hop.
With this debut album, Earl showed us why he’s considered a major force in the future of hip-hop, but also that he has lots of room to grow. Some of the hooks on this album weren’t good at all (“I’ll f*** the freckles off your face, b****“), but a lyricist as skilled as Earl doesn’t need strong hooks to make good songs. The guest features didn’t always help the album either; I found Frank Ocean and his cousin had boring rap verses, and RZA and Tyler, The Creator’s hooks just didn’t hit, although RZA provided good production and Tyler had a decent verse. I think Earl will only continue to improve as he finds his craft and gets used to making large bodies of work. If Earl just keeps hitting us with dope verses over dope beats, he’s bound to become and underground legend in hip-hop by the time he’s 25.
My Grade (based on how well I connected with it, no disrespect if your experience was different): A-
Come back to my blog tomorrow to see which album or mixtape came in at #6 on the countdown!