19-year-old hip-hop savant Earl Sweatshirt has a knack for weaving dizzyingly elaborate vignettes of his mysterious existence into his music with a devil may care ethos that makes you wonder if he even has to try. His self-titled mixtape (released online when he was 16) was the genesis of a generation of internet-born rap virtuosos. Along with his foul-mouthed posse of Los Angeles skate rats who call themselves Odd Future, Earl Sweatshirt challenges traditional musicianship at every turn.
In the three years between his breakthrough mixtape and the release of his phenomenal debut album Doris, Earl found himself in the center of one of the most compelling mysteries in pop history. The half rallying cry half meme “Free Earl” (which still gets spray-painted on streets all over the country) referred to the fact that Sweatshirt’s mother–a UCLA professor–was so incensed with her son’s behavior and lyrical content that she had him sent to a Samoan camp for troubled youth. The entire ordeal was even profiled in the New Yorker.
Now though, the technically gifted wonder kid is back, and despite his stratospheric popularity, he’s remained relatively quiet. He released his major label debut without any major marketing blitz or even interview runs. The naturally reclusive rapper comes out of his shell infrequently and a trip to your city isn’t something to take lightly–he might be the youngest artist on a lot of people’s “bands to see before I die” list. On Thursday October 10th, Earl Sweatshirt makes his way to Mr. Small’s Theater as part of his Doris tour.
He’s joined by Odd Future affiliate Vince Staples, whose verse on the single “Hive” should go down as the best of the year despite not being mentioned in Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse. His omission might be for good reason, the merciless L.A classicist is known for holding no punches when it comes to lyrical assault in the deadliest form.
Tickets are available online.