Sick!- Earl Sweatshirt
Sydney Davis February 10, 2022
SICK! By Earl Sweatshirt Album Review
Earl Sweatshirt released his fourth studio album SICK! on January 14, 2022. When he announced its release, he described the album as “humble offering of 10 songs”. I agree wholeheartedly that this was a humble move on Sweatshirt’s part because he hasn’t graced us with a project in a little over 2 years, and it almost felt as though he was just teasing music. The album’s title plays into the fact that Sweatshirt created these songs during his time spent in the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns and as he said “leaned into chaos” with everything occurring in the world. As I have mentioned in prior reviews, much of the work artists have been producing as of late, are reflective due to them having so much extra time to just sit with themselves and think, and Sweatshirt is no exception to this.
The album kicks off with the song “Old Friends” where he talks about the wild times being in a pandemic of trying to balance working, staying home, and not getting cabin fever missing out on that social interaction. This can be seen as a nod to the OFWGKTA collective, and how the group members have gone separate ways in their careers, but still at the end of the day are friends. The next song on the album is “2010”, which was the first released single of the album. “2010” is Sweatshirt being reminiscent of the year he released his breakout mixtape Earl with all he accomplished and went through at that time.
Okay, let’s get into my favorite track “Tabula Rasa”, because I promise I played this song five times in a row before moving on to the next. The production on this song was done impeccably by Theravada, Rbchmbrs, and Sweatshirt, especially with their sampling of Billy Paul’s “I’m Gonna Make It This Time” giving a classic touch. The track overall is reflective of the changes happening in their lives, which gives the connection to the actual meaning of the Tabula rasa. Tabula rasa is the theory that individuals are born without built-in mental content, and therefore all knowledge comes from experience or perception. Featured on the track is duo Armand Hammer and they each held their own starting off the track, then Sweatshirt keeps the strength of the flow going to round out the ending.
Another honorable mention is the song “Lye” produced by The Alchemist. Intentional listening to this song can lead to catching many of the dual meanings and references in the lyrics. A section that hints at the track’s is how in the outro Sweatshirt uses excerpts from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, where Malcolm talks about the painful experience using lye chemical in his hair. I found this interesting because just as Malcolm and his peers were thinking at the time the lye wouldn’t be that bad as it was and that it was worth the pain, I believe Sweatshirt’s dual meaning was the same in that the lies to ourselves and from others do more damage than we initially want to believe. All by using a play on homophones.
“Fire in the Hole” was a good way to end the album. Sweatshirt basically hopped on said he was spitting fire this whole album, then let the relaxed beat fade out and do the rest of the talking for him.
The only downside of the album is how short it is. Over half of the songs are less than two minutes, and the album totals to a 24 minutes and 5 seconds. The shortest being the track “Lobby (int)”, and probably my main song I wish was longer. It was somewhat of an abrupt ending, and I think Sweatshirt could have did a little bit more with this song if he kept it going. So, keep what I said in mind earlier about it being a “humbling offering”. Although I would rather have a brief album that has intention versus one that is an hour long that provides nothing but lackadaisical material.
Overall, I would recommend giving this album a listen it’s short but sweet. I think it may be all we get from Sweatshirt for a while or a prelude to his next project.
Favorite Tracks: “Tabula Rasa” & “Lye”