By Kiah Easton, Columns Editor
[Warner Records; 2019]
Key tracks: “MTOMB”, “EL TORO COMBO MEAL (feat. Mavi)”, “ TISK TISK / COOKIES”
Following Earl Sweatshirt’s critically acclaimed masterpiece, Some Rap Songs, Earl’s latest EP FEET OF CLAY feels more like the B-sides of his previous project. However, being compared to the B-sides of one of the most grippingly emotional, experimental and defiant projects of the decade should not be seen as a negative judgment, rather an acknowledgment of Earl’s creative process and the continuation of his entirely unique and personal sound. The project is dirty, ill-defined and carries the familiar raw emotion that characterizes Some Rap Songs. It does, however, feel more like an EP, with some of the songs needing further development, even for Earl’s loose and experimental style.
“MTOMB” draws reminiscent inspiration from producers that came before Earl, most specifically HipHop legend J Dilla. The soft crooning of the soul vocalist behind Earl’s stumbling flow provides a sorrowful context between the layers that feels honest and relatable. With Some Rap Songs dealing heavily with depression and the death of Earl’s father, FEET OF CLAY continues the grieving process. “Mommy water, shawty blew the fish out / Piscean just like my father, still got bones to pick out / For now let’s salt the rims and pour a drink out / and sip (Mmh)”
“El TORO COMBO MEAL” features Earl’s first collaboration on the project. Adapting an extremely similar flow to Earl, Mavi adds a different vocal texture to the slippery vocal deliveries throughout the project. This feature is a testament to the power of Earl’s compositional skills, as even his features carry the same sonic message that he does. Lyrically, Mavi follows suit as well, speaking to the power of depression and being lost. Earl’s verse adds a breathy texture to the layering that disrupts the beat that stayed consistent through Mavi’s verse. With an almost panicked tone, Earl lets the track fall apart as he speaks his mind.
“TISK TISK / COOKIES” reveals the inner workings of the software Earl uses in his production. The audio displays the wounds of being time-stretched to an extreme, and the results are mangled and unnatural. This mimics Earl’s sense of self and fits his disjointed, intentionally careless style of rapping. Lyrics like “Inner remorse, divorce your spirit and corpse, corpse / I tell you I’m hearing it all,” reinforce the pain that was present on Some Rap Songs and confirm that the process of grief is still in effect.
FEET OF CLAY is music created out of a necessity to express and process emotions. Though the projects differ is in their length and development, both Some Rap Songs and FEET OF CLAY feel like creative therapy for Earl, and sometimes his listeners as well. Immediate and emblematic of Earl’s need to create, FEET OF CLAY feels less fleshed out for the listener and instead is more of an uncompromising portrayal of Earl himself. Earl does not cater to anyone, and in the end, FEET OF CLAY is a project so important to his current self, which is telling and beautiful in its own right.