FEET OF CLAY Forces Us Deeper into the Depths of Earl Sweatshirt’s State of Mind

FEET OF CLAY is the new offering by Earl Sweatshirt and the EP is a far cry from the sound with which he rose to prominence as part of Odd Future at the tender age of 16. Any long-time admirers of his artistry will point to how his work has with this evolution; album upon album, sonically tended to lean towards a progressively more dejected, dark sound as Earl has come of age. Our first taste of this came all the way back in 2015 with the release of I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, which at the time seemed like a concerning departure from what fans had sonically become accustomed to and in terms of subject matter. In retrospect, a lot of what Earl was doing then still shines through in this release with the exception being the lead single “Grief”.

2018’s Some Rap Songs would see a far greater departure from what had become an almost signature sound throughout the Odd Future collective, perhaps, due to the fact that by this point Odd Future as a group was firmly a thing of the past but more likely due to Earl insatiable curiosity. Some Rap Songs was lo-fi, loop heavy and gave us and Earl Sweatshirt, seemingly effortlessly hitting niche inter-beat pockets; so masterfully done that the pretty monotone cadence adopted by the artist works to his benefit rather than his detriment. Not only is Some Rap Songs an important reference sonically when listening to his new FEET OF CLAY EP but arguably more important is the subject matter Earl engaged with on the 2018 release. Some Rap Songs is undeniably depressing. It is a deep dive into Earl’s mental state after the sudden passing of his father, legendary South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, which was followed only weeks later by the passing of close family friend Hugh Masekela. Some Rap Songs is jam-packed with grief and Earl’s unhealthy reliance on alcohol as a coping mechanism, and it’s here that we find overarching sonic and thematic similarities between Some Rap Songs and FEET OF CLAY.

I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside Album Cover

It is important to state off the bat that the EP; at only 15 minutes long, is still so full of quotable one-liners that merely mentioning every smart bar, instance of interesting wordplay or fascinating niche reference could be a review in of itself. Thankfully, much of the sentiment surrounding Earl’s previous project runs true here. We once again hear the droning, dejected almost uninterested flow that was so prevalent on Some Rap Songs but more on this later, as it is an important point of consideration that might allude to a concern Earl fans should be taking note of.

Contrary to his previous release ,however, FEET OF CLAY leans more heavily on its features; whether that be with mind-bending flows such as Mavi’s contribution of “EL TORO COMBO MEAL” or the way long-time collaborator The Alchemist flipped the sample of Mtume’s 70’s Funk tune “Theme (For The People)(Opening)”. As a project, however, FEET OF CLAY isn’t a tight, well-constructed and thoughtfully curated epic. Tracks may seem like bits and bops from around the same recordings as the Some Rap Songs album but if this is the case there are plenty of artists that could only dream of producing work as enjoyable and interesting as Earl’s.

Some Rap Songs Album Cover

As stated before, Earl carries over his dejected cadence from Some Rap Songs and in some respects I do hope FEET OF CLAY is compiled of songs from the same recordings sessions and here’s why. Some Rap Songs in truth left me concerned for the well-being of Earl. The emotional turmoil on display particularly within “Playing Possum” and “Peanut”, project an awfully bleak, depressed and despondent outlook from the artist. However, just when all hope seemed lost “Riot” provided some sense of sombre acceptance; a hint that Earl was turning a corner. It was a feeling of small victories but now with the release of FEET OF CLAY that hint of a small victory is fully cast in doubt. I honestly do feel that Earl is at a point in his career where he is producing his best content, Some Rap Songs blew me away, but I can’t help but worry as we praise and enjoy his artistry, that we neglect to take into account the personal cost the content may be coming at.

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