Concerts

Earl Sweatshirt Is Hip-Hop's Most Interesting Rapper

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Earl

His debut mixtape made the rounds on hip-hop blogs as a fan favorite. It was equal parts artistic and shocking. The then-16 Sweatshirt showed an incredible talent for unique flows and a mature diction but made waves when pairing that musicality and rhythmic skill with near-obscene stories of kidnapping, rape, cop-killing, and deranged violence. Similarities were easily drawn to early Eminem records, a prominent influence on Tyler as well. Lyrical content aside, any bad press and viral views were due mostly to the low-grade home-made music video for the mixtape's title track, in which Earl and his OF crew -- clearly scrawny underagers -- concoct a disgusting blend of everything from weed and codeine to pain pills into a smoothie. The video shows them all downing the nasty brew, then running around bleeding from every orifice imaginable, foaming at the mouth, losing teeth, and pulling off fingernails. It might be the hardest music video to watch ever if it weren't also so comical.

#FreeEarl

The "Earl" video caused a lot of people to panic, and the story goes that one of those people was Earl's mother. Soon after Tyler, the Creator's "Yonkers" video brought OF to mainstream success, the crew's young MVP mysteriously disappeared. Though details are hazy, it's understood Sweatshirt's mother sent the rapper to a therapeutic retreat school in Somoa, where he was to remain until he graduated at 18. While he was busy reading about Malcolm X and learning to dive in the South Pacific, his buddies in L.A. blew up fast. OFWGKTA made headlines across the world and carved their own niche into a transitioning hip-hop scene, all the while screaming the rally cry "Free Earl." Details remained purposefully hazy concerning Earl's absence. Nothing was heard from the fan fave, and the crew released its OF Tape Vol. 2 compilation without any appearance from Sweatshirt besides a single verse on the ten-minute collaborative track "Oldie." Fans were hungry for more.

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Kat Bein is a freelance writer and has been described as this publication’s "senior millennial correspondent." She has an impressive, if unhealthy, knowledge of all things pop culture.