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Earl Sweatshirt 'Doris'

Another Stellar Effort From The Odd Future Stable

Rating: 8 / 10

Paul Nolan, 05 Sep 2013

Love ’em or hate ’em, LA collective Odd Future are now a serious force in contemporary hip hop, their output – which stretches across a bewildering array of sub-groups and internal collaborations – now being a constant reference point whenever discussing the genre. Going against the critical grain, your correspondent feels the high point of the Odd Future canon so far remains Tyler The Creator’s brilliant 2011 offering Goblin, a wickedly funny, anarchic manifesto which is now held in somewhat lesser esteem than Frank Ocean’s 2012 neo-soul opus, Channel Orange.

Ocean’s album was a fine effort, sublimely good in parts, but decidedly less daring than the biting, attitudinal Goblin – and frankly, a tad dull in comparison. Goblin is also superior to anything Kanye has released so far, although that’s another argument.

19-year-old prodigy Earl Sweatshirt, now back in the Odd Future fold after being exiled by his concerned mother to – wait for it – a therapeutic school for at-risk boys in Samoa, has fallen somewhere between the Odd Future extremes with Doris: more intense than the smooth Ocean, if not quite as splenetic as Tyler.

What has to be said about Doris is that it’s one of the most brilliantly produced albums of the year, which is not all that surprising when you consider the Galacticos-like array of talent assembled to work on it. The record unites three generations of A-list hip hop talent, with contributions from RZA, The Neptunes and the Odd Future crew, in addition to other gifted groove technicians like Samiyam and Christian Rich. Earl, working under the name randomblackdude, also proves to be no slouch in the production department himself.

The soundscapes on Doris are frequently mesmerising, whether it be the distorted synth assault of ‘Hive’, the nightmarish ambience of ‘Guild’ or the funky grooves of ‘Molasses’. Lyrically, Earl also does a fine job, touching on familial strife (his father, a South African poet, left his law professor mother when Earl was six) and urban ennui, whilst also offering cultural commentary and barbed invective into the bargain.

It may lack a definitive statement like Tyler’s ‘Yonkers’ (for me, the song of the decade thus far), but Doris is nonetheless a hughly compelling piece of work.

Key Track: 'Hive'

Rating: 8 / 10
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