What’s Earl gotta do to afford an exclusive, dedicated, non-morphed critical account recounting one of his bodies of work on these premises? Bless, we’re asking ourselves the question too—yet for a second time in a row, following the embedded critique of his 2018 AOTY list-featured Some Rap Songs, the former Odd Future bars-wizard can’t seem to score anything more than a byline mention amidst a cacophony of other critical appraisals around here. For some order’s sake: Los Angeles’s very own abstract and jazz rap MC Earl Sweatshirt recently issued his fourth official solo LP SICK!, which within a relatively short span of time went from announcement to full release, piercing through the new year and hastily turning the record into an early 2022 highlight in the wake of a somewhat lukewarm and by-the-numbers tail end of last year.
Earmarked and distributed via his own Tan Cressida imprint as a (semi-) free agent and a little nudge from recording royalty Warner Records, the project clocks in at just about 24 minutes of runtime, and got teased and promoted by the scintillating mist of the watertight “2010“, the auxiliary posse cut “Tabula Rasa” featuring fellow envelope-pushing wordsmiths Armand Hammer, as well as “Titanic“, a nocturnal stream of consciousness smorgasbord that seems to come and go in the blink of an eye. All three singles saw the light of day between late November and early January this year, just in time before the full album hit digital shelves on the subsequent Friday 14th. With the minor exception of the latter, this batch of lead singles accurately sections the principal contents of this record, candidly illustrating their unhinged and earnest sonic palette.
Not unlike with his last two official collections of tracks—lest we forget, the 27-year-old Chicago native unleashed the deboned and boundaryless Feet of Clay in 2019—SICK! concerns itself with further honing and perfecting a particular type of linear and elongated incongruous musical narrative committed to tape, devoid of any spinal infrastructure, but rather extracting pure diluted elixir from a primordial soup of a fuzzy and hollow strain go hip-hop made of minimalism, reduction, and synthesis. Cuts like the cloudy and cotton-padded Alexander Spit-produced “God Laughs“, or the devastatingly floundered title track, not only sport some of Sweatshirt’s best and most distinctive wordplay to date, but they also warrant him to urgently do so in less than 120 seconds. Amidst it all, notwithstanding the more frequent and reassuring glimpses of sun-lit serenity exhuming throughout this thing, Thebe Neruda Kgositsile’s effortlessness in ferociously pulling listeners into long-forsaken abysses remains unparalleled.
On the same exact new music Friday that brought us SICK!, the rapper formerly known as YBN Cordae presented to the world his sophomore full length studio album, entitled From a Bird’s Eye View. We’ll get this full disclosure out of the way before too long: we’re only really coming around to ‘getting’ the Cordae hype now—and that’s on us. Yet, with little to no preconceptions and fields of reference, the Atlantic-released twelve-track project from the budding Raleigh, NC-born rapper coasts through with an amount of efficacy, immediacy, and originality that only a handful outings a year can strive to. God forbid, one knows an album has got quite a lot going for itself when even the interludes sound as evocative and poignant as some of the key cuts. Case in point, the fly and verbose project opener, coming courtesy of Cordae’s imprisoned brother Shiloh.
A hip-hop disciple equally indebted to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly as to pre-Tha Carter IV Wayne, on the fabulously and lavishly produced FABEV the former YBN collective-member is spellbinding on both pensive and introspective tell-all numbers (“Jean-Michel“, “Momma’s Hood“), as well as on irresistibly quotable 16-bars on sticky hip-pop dancefloor fillers (“Want From Me“, “Coach Carter“, “Westlake High“). Counterintuitively, none of the aforementioned standouts feature any guest acts, unlike the rest of this project where, unavoidably, both old (of course Lil Wayne, Freddie Gibbs, Stevie Wonder) and new (Gunna, H.E.R., Lil Durk) black guard connect—yet alas without turning as many memorable heads as solo Cordae manages to pull off on here. This young MC’s talent is undeniable, his songwriting sharp as iron, and with refrains as hooky and earworm-y as these, one could not be faulted to bill him as one of the big headlining names in the 2020s mainstream rap pantheon.
While one promising and enthralling career arc is opening up beyond the sky’s limit, two other significant ones just slithered their final nails in their respective coffins, with curtain call albums released in 2021 by now-defunct legendary Buffalo, NY-metalcore quintet Every Time I Die and the hardest working boyband in the world, BROCKHAMPTON. Hailing from genres and styles that could not be further apart on the musical spectrum—the same can’t however be said for their grassroots, DIY, and underground springboards—both groups recently announced their untimely break ups. Each concluding their own special and iconic trajectories of influential and boundary-pushing artistic output, they did so not without dishing out two final LPs that each landed coveted spots as part of our 2021 Albums of the Year list. Before we move on to our final crop of singles under consideration, we wanted to tip off our hat to both outfits, similarly pioneering and proficient in their own lane and style; thanking them for having graced us with such magnificent and eclectic art throughout their celebrated tenures.
Lastly, let us take a look and put a pin into two old rock and roll cats’ forthcoming studio albums and their respective auditory sneak peaks, slated for release later in the year. While both Jack White and Eddie Vedder need no introduction, it still feels enthralling to report that they announced highly-anticipated solo albums during the latter half of last year, and are thus in the midst of promotional cycles churning out one single after another. The former White Stripes-frontman did not stop at one, but rather saw fit to tease toward two completely separate new LPs in 2022. Fear of the Dawn is set for release in early April and will reportedly feature the Detroit guitarist’s conventional garage rock flair, whereas later in the summer he will funnel the acoustic folk-laden eleven tracks long Entering Heaven Alive. Web punters were afforded a first abrasive and annihilating nibble of what’s to expect as part of the first electric release back in October last year, as White unveiled the spine-frying and unforgiving devastation of the epic “Taking Me Back” (his first solo offering in four years), incidentally doubling as lead score for the latest video game rage Call of Duty: Vanguard.
Not long after said inaugural sonic obliteration, on the same exact mid-January new music Friday that brought us SICK! and From a Bird’s Eye View, the Third Man Records-founder and underrated upholsterer pulled a one-eighty on the world and gently ushered the delicate arpeggio woven into the somber affair that is “Love is Selfish“. Of course, the tune stands to premiere the second of the two albums anticipated by White, and consists of an intelligently found balance between opinionatedly insecure lyrics (“I’ve been trying over the years to / Try and overcome these fears, but / Nothing I come up with proves I can / And I work real hard to make you understand / Yeah, I’ll try my best to help you understand“) and a chorus-less songwriting, consolidating few good ideas around a backbone that allows him to flesh out his creative muscles across three minutes of runtime.
Just as enthusing as two new albums from Jack White is Pearl Jam‘s very own and grunge rock icon Eddie Vedder’s first solo offering in over a decade, Earthling. A thirteen-chaptered collection planned to drop in just a matter of mere weeks on 11th February, the project can now count on a third and final lead single unveiled on the same exact mid-January new music Friday that brought us SICK!, From a Bird’s Eye View, and Jack White’s “Love is Selfish”. Denoting a stark and asserted departure from anything to be found on his previous solo discography, the striking and emotional “Brother the Cloud” sees the 57-year-old rock compadre juggle lyrical stoicism, timeless melodic arrangements, and a chorus bound to reside rent free in many a listener’s cerebral dwellings. Amen to estranged former frontdads, bands that split, and gnarly juvenile hip-hop flagbearers for ensuring 2022’s early musical hodgepodge is healthier and more fun than ever.
I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.
2022, Tan Cressida
FROM A BIRDS EYE VIEW
2022, Atlantic Recording
TAKING ME BACK & LOVE IS SELFISH
2021 & 2022, Third Man Records
BROTHER THE CLOUD
2022, Republic Records