By: Ian Gephart
The two most affluent members of Odd Future have taken some curious steps forward in the last few years, steps that have lead them apart from each other. The brotherly loves is cold right now as the members of OFWGKTA are all “on their own island” according to Tyler, an objectively accurate statement; both Cherry Bomb and I Don’t Like S***, I Don’t Go Outside by Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt respectively contain drastically reduced features compared to previous albums and are almost entirely self-produced. They follow similar threads in both lyrical and musical content, but my overall opinion on each varies starkly.
Cherry Bomb meets Tyler at a very different stage in his life than that of Bastard, his debut mix tape released at the end of 09’. The realization that hip-hop success is no longer a pip-dream but a reality has his lyrics take on significantly less violent outcast content and instead fit more into rap norms. This is a tone set by the opening song Deathcamp and carries throughout the album. While certainly not devoid of self-depreciation and outlandishly vulgar content that’s he’s known for, the surge in narcissistic prose is a stark contrast to previous work. The occasional admittance that this new found fame and success does not sit comfortably with him never manages to fully balance out these contrary ideas, leaving me personally a little let down by the clear departure from the radical lyrics that gave Tyler his cult following to begin with.
Instrumentally, Cherry Bomb is explosively varied. Most of the album is purposely distorted, boasting loud, electrically charged samples. The first three tracks hit bluntly and you may question the quality of your headphones. His vocals are more often than not drowned out by the music throughout. It isn’t until track five, Find Your Wings, a jazzy low-key ballad, that we hear any sort of musical breadth… which is immediately followed by title track Cherry Bomb, reverting back to the rough static of the first few songs. These two themes bounce back and forth throughout the album, only finding common ground in the track Smuckers, which ends up being my personal favorite off the record. I can’t help but find myself more attracted to the jazzier, traditionally instrumental tracks. The boastful rest of the album is certainly unique, but the appeal mostly ends there.
I find myself immediately drawing strong comparisons between Cherry Bomb and Kanye West’s Yeezus. They come on the tail ends of successful past work. Their artists purposefully choose turn a new leaf in both sound and content. Low in featured artists, hyper-narcissist in lyrics, self-proclaimed “genius” works by their own authors, they both take on “alternative” hip-hop sounds head on, especially honing in on electronic, synth heavy vibes. And, as with Yeezus, I think Cherry Bomb will fall off the radar a lot more quickly than its creator thinks it deserves.
Smuckers Ft. Lil Wayne & Kanye West
I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
In his second full release since his return from exile in Samoa, Earl continues the more reflective and emotionally wrought themes of his last album, Doris, while diving into even darker production tones. The album as a whole confronts the internal challenges that commercial and critical success bring. It’s a review of both the good and the bad of “making it” very similar to the content of Cherry Bomb. But Earl approaches this in a much more raw and honest way. The discomfort generated from lyrics isn’t from angry hyperbole but the openness that lets us look inside what Sweatshirt is really struggling with.
Other than Left Brain produced Off Top, the beats come entirely from Earl under the pseudonym randomblackdude. They’re low, chill, and wobble deeply. It’s the type of heavy melodies that effortlessly sink into your head leaving a pleasant if not melancholy aftertaste. It’s a direct reflection of the mood Earl has given off in these last two albums. The only upbeat wiggle room exists at the beginning and end of the album where we hear lighter, bouncier beats underneath the more positive lyrics found in his album.
Clocking in just under 30 minutes, I Don’t Like S***, I Don’t Go Outside is a bite sized musical contribution. It doesn’t reach outside its own comfort zone but it also never drops the ball in its execution. Every song feels intentional, well thought out, and fantastically produced. I, for one, will have both this and Doris playing for quite some time when I’m in the mood for dark, thoughtful reflection. It drives far away from the stereotypes that weigh so many hip-hop artists down without falling into unapproachable and unwelcoming territory.
AM // Radio