Earl Sweatshirt is a California rapper who was formerly a standout member of the notorious rap collective Odd Future. Feet of Clay is a seven-track EP following up his most celebrated artistic body of work Some Rap Songs, which was released in November 2018.
Earl, signed to Odd Future as a 16-year-old lyrical phenom, gained a reputation in the context of the group as the low-key counterpoint to Tyler, the Creator, Domo Genesis and others’ depraved lyrical content. Earl Sweatshirt still had a youthful energy and would throw out some raunchy lines occasionally, but it became clear very early on that he would take his artistic ethos into a more mature direction after the group fell apart.
Earl has spent the last five years venturing out to define his sound and carve out his own niche. As a lyricist, he is very abstract, bringing in obscure references and strange patterns and structures to his bars that make them hard to decipher. His diffusive delivery, as well as his lyricism, has a showy MF Doom influence, but the strong feelings of despair that surround his music drives him into his own lane.
With Feet of Clay, it was interesting to see if Earl would experiment with something new as he did with Some Rap Songs, which featured entrancing flows over claustrophobic, low-fi instrumentals over the span of 25 minutes. However, there’s been no metamorphosis at all. Earl has given his fans leftovers from his last record, and for the most part, they are still pretty fresh.
If there’s one disappointment with this album throughout, it’s that the lyrics are not quite as vividly sad as they were on Some Rap Songs, making the music overall less relatable. There are a few depressing bars here and there, for example, on the track “El Toro Combo Meal”:
“Larry Oops, I was lost in the alley, in the air but not sunk / I spun 'til the loss of my grandmama buried the dunk / Send 'bout a prayer a month, through the above”
The overall lyrical tone is very abstract, scatterbrained and emotionally dejected. But they don’t hit the feels as effectively as they did on Earl’s previous effort. Keeping these tracks engaging mostly depends on the clever rhyme schemes and wordplay that Earl employs on every single track, as well as the creative production that shows up in spades.
This album lacks the cohesion that we saw on Some Rap Songs. While not a perfect album, it captured the feeling of being held hostage within Earl’s deteriorating mental state. Songs like “OD” and “4N” are stylistically analogous to Earl’s last album but are nowhere near as fulfilling.
“East” has one of the wildest beats ever recorded for a hip-hop song, which ultimately falls flat as the incessant accordion chords become very tedious by the end of the track. However, songs like the opening track “7N” and “MTOMB” bring back that style in a refreshing manner, with great beats and intricate wordplay that has the mind doing cartwheels.
At the end of the day, this is music made for hardcore Earl Sweatshirt fans that are passionate about the style that he’s focused on right now. If Some Rap Songs wasn’t an enjoyable experience for you, this short collection of songs will not turn a new leaf. It’s clear that this project is nowhere near as essential to him or the rap industry at large. Overall, it’s a likable effort, but without potent sadness consistently coming through Earl’s bars, the project comes off a bit redundant, even at just 15 minutes.