I went to see Earl Sweatshirt this week, and I'm still a fan.
I'll admit that I was really caught up in the hype about Earl Sweatshirt being a Hip-hop prodigy who was wasting away in a foreign reform school on a mom-imposed exile. It was hard not to be enthralled in a story so compelling, especially given all the noise surrounding Odd Future when they first gained media acclaim. Plus Earl's debut mixtape, 'Earl,' had flashes of brilliance. I loved his sage voice and introspective wordplay, even though its subject matters were sophomoric at best. I honestly wondered if the kid could be even a fraction as talented as the hype machine was calling him.
Earl has lived up to the hype in my opinion. His second release 'Doris' was definitely one of my favorite albums of 2013. Earl has really thoughtful rhyme schemes, and his beat selection is strong. Doris was a bit feature heavy, but each guest vocalist added to the songs so well it still was a cohesive album. What I liked the most about Doris though was that you could tell Earl did not compromise at all on the album. It is very focused on his story and not the outlandish themes Odd Future is known for. The album felt mature. Earl clearly has a nice contrarian and sarcastic perspective on the world which I enjoyed learning about through his lyrics.
I had only seen Earl perform live once before, and it was with Flying Lotus/Captain Murphy at the Fader Fort at SXSW in 2013. He did really well there, but he seemed a little reserved at that performance. I hoped that he would have a bit more confidence and looseness this time around, and he did. The show I saw was apart of his Wearld Tour.
The show could have been challenging for Earl. It was a really early show (7:00 doors) and there was no opener, just a brief set of primarily Gucci Mane songs by Earl's tour DJ. Still, the crowd- mostly 16-20 year olds, and heavily skewed towards smokers, was hype when Earl began his set. Taco from Odd Future was his hype man.
Earl's set included basically all of his best songs, Whoa, Chum, Burgandy, Molasses, Hive, Kill, and crowd fave Orange Juice. He looked like he was having a great time and was really engaged with the crowd. He stopped performing to help some audience members get water, chided a guy who was going to scrap with a girl, and ended the set exhorting the crowd to make sure they sought variety in their musical choices (i.e. all Migos doesn't cut it!).
There was a gang of moshing at the show. It was not death metal intense moshing, but it was a lot. I needed to back out of the way a bunch of times. Honestly, his music doesn't seem that agnsty to me. Some of the crowd just wanted an excuse to be aggressive. But oh well.
It was hot as hell in the show. Like hotter than I can remember ever at The Masquerade, though it wasn't totally packed or sold out. Despite the heat and the fact I sweated my hair out, I had a blast. Only thing I would change is the pre-set music. I know that it is Atlanta and all, but do all DJs only play Gucci and Migos before shows here, regardless of the artist?
Earl has matured a lot, and I will excitedly follow his career. His shows will get even better as his catalog grows. He's a talented guy with a sophisticated flow and good ear for beats who isn't afraid to do his own thing with his music. That's my sweet spot.