has lived a chaotic life. Earl's meteoric ascent to stardom in 2010 was Internet lore, painting him as a martyr like cult figure in a digital age. After dropping a highly complex, lyrically dexterous debut mixtape self-titled Earl
, critics quickly compared the sixteen year old upstart to the legendary Nas
. Perhaps a bit of a stretch, the young Earl showed enough promise to create the "Free Earl" campaign following his disappearance from the limelight.
As second-in-command of California based rebellious hip-hop collective Odd Future [Ed. note: Does that make Jasper the one cleaning up the latrines?], his debutEarl
was a horror-core tale of shock, profanity, and debauchery that was extremely off-putting, especially coming from someone so young. Earl's mother immediately shipped him off to Coral Reef Academy, a correctional facility for at-risk youth. As Odd Future pal Tyler
blew up, the myth of Earl did as well, but what came next makes his story that much more interesting.
When Earl came back he almost instantly began to build his career away from Odd Future. Before starting his own album from outside of the Odd Future umbrella, Earl almost immediately sided with his mother in what he deemed as much needed time apart. Earl admitted to having been "out of control" and needing time to mature into the artist that he wanted to be. While Earl still calls Eminem one of his favorite rappers, he showed signs of wanting to reach far beyond his shock content and instead cultivate an aesthetic and fulfilling image that reflected his message. To prove his point, the most alienating fact of all, Earl disowned his old music and stated his new stuff would disappoint fans who only liked his horrific lyrics.
Earl has since teamed with wonder-kid Staples, who publicly had beef with Odd Future and Tyler, for multiple releases including his accidentally ruined surprise album I Don't Like Sh**, I Don't Go Outside
. Most people don't even realize Earl only appears once on all three of Tyler's albums (and on the forgettable "Rusty" at that). Turning to self-production instead of the fingerprints of Tyler and OF in-house producer Left Brain, Earl has begun to take control of his entire artistic process.
What happened to Earl on that island? His juvenile mindset has seemingly fizzled out completely, becoming an statesmen in the sad rap category instead. Earl isn't as crazy or wild as his 16 year old days, but he is still painting vivacious canvases on the ideas of depression, anxiety, and existential nihilistic views. Earl taking his entire career into his own hands, literally producing the very skeletal minimalistic beats for his poetry to be accompanied with, shows his progression from rapper to meaningful artist. While I do love hip-hop culture, many rappers fail to find any meaning in their art, generally filling a cliche role that is easily marketable to the public and radio. Earl, on the other hand, uses his music to understand himself and his hectic world of stardom. Between dealing with repairing the relationship with his mom, photo-obsessed fans, and simply growing up, Earl's music is therapeutic and a reflection of his life. Look no further than the recently release 10 minute epic "Solace".
Earl's relationship with technology is integral to understanding him as an artist and person. Make no mistake, without the Internet Earl would not have had the same ability to return to the limelight in such high demand. The Free Earl campaign needed hungry social media like Tumblr, music forums, and blogs to keep the legend of Earl alive. His fan interaction keeps a very enthusiastic audience willing to catch every tour, stalk his life, and keep him relevant to the hip-hop community by trending on social media. Hell, King Kendrick
recently admitted Earl is his favorite rapper at the moment. His skill is undeniable and with a growing interest in beat making, his potential has yet to be seen.
HIs personality goes a long way in proving his likable factor. Earl's blunt honesty, on tracks or interviews, is something that fans and critics alike have called redeeming in an extremely fake industry. Earl's frequent admittance that Vince Staples is the best rapper or his allowing of other rappers to outshine him on his own tracks shows he really is putting the art first. Earl famously allowed SK Laflare to be the first voice on his debut Doris
. As Earl continues to find his voice and solidify his vision, his development is something that the industry should be paying attention to.
The agoraphobic Earl has obviously been through some up and downs... his early rehab visit coupled with the pressure of living under the shadow of his father Keorapetse William Kgositsile, a well known South African poet and activist. That little known fact surely pushes Earl in his quest to not only be a great poet himself but to also live up to his father's expectations, a man never truly present in his life. In the age of the Internet, emotion in rap is encouraged. The sad rap aesthetic is real with the mommy and daddy issue centric Earl being key it's development [Ed note: Also Drake. But, I'd take Earl any day]. Purists praise "street life" or deep politics, but new age personas push art, emotion, and the identity of rap itself. Earl isn't afraid to be himself regardless of what critics or even his friends like Tyler think. In an age of conformity, when individualism should be most prevalent, we should look to Earl as not only an examples but a leader.
Check out the video for "Grief" below off of the new album I Don't Like Sh**, I Don't Go Outside