By Derek Askey
"It's money" opens Doris, the way-way-way-too-much-anticipated album from Odd Future standout and internal rhyme genius Earl Sweatshirt. "It's money," the intro repeats, "It's money." If you bought a physical copy, you're hearing that opening while thumbing through the artwork: an intoxicated-looking (though he kind of always is) Earl standing next to a crucifix, homeless people with grocery carts, graffiti, lots and lots and lots of pigeons. It's hard not to see a contrast.
Compare it with the also-grayscale-but-totally-different artwork of Jay Z's newest, Magna Carta Holy Grail, and you get a sense of what different spaces these two occupy right now. Hov's driving to the Met in a Bugatti; Sweatshirt's telling you how much everything sucks, scrawling it across the walls. It's money, I guess, but if you hear a clinking sound here, it's a can of spray-paint, not stacks of coins.
If you're tired of hearing about every rap record as it might relate to Jay, I hope you'll forgive the comparison, or even accept that Sweatshirt asked for it when he dissed Magna Carta on Twitter last month.
if you really fucked with magna carta then unfollow me— Earl Sweatshirt (@earlxsweat) July 11, 2013
I can admit, finding myself reacting against all of the "dad rap" tags that Magna got (unfairly) saddled with, Sweatshirt's tweet rubbed me the wrong way.The "FATHER FORGIVE ME FOR I HAVE TAKEN THE NAME OF OUR HOLY SAVIOR JAY Z IN VAIN" that followed irked me even more so: who the fuck does he think he is, etc., etc.
But here's the thing: I like Magna, might even argue that it's one of the most underrated records of the year, and Doris still runs circles around it. Sweatshirt sounds hungry. He has something to prove. And he does it.
"You posers know me as the troll throwing moldy donut holes at your grody hoe from his cronies' whip" is just one of the tongue-twisting lines on Doris. It's more than a fulfillment of the promise of his "We are the Xany-gnashing, Caddy-smashing, bratty-ass, he mad, he snatched his Daddy's Jag and used the shit for batting practice" fireworks from his verse on Frank Ocean's "Super Rich Kids."
Go a step further and compare it to a line from Magna and the two don't even seem like they inhabit the same continent. Jay's singing fucking Nirvana lines with Justin Timberlake. There's a place for that, I guess, but Sweatshirt just makes him seem silly.
I wouldn't say that's what Earl Sweatshirt set out to do, exactly, and there are songs on Magna that people might be more psyched to hear than anything from Doris: the Pharrell-produced "BBC," probably, or the infectious "Part II (On the Run)." But as an album, Doris outshines Magna in nearly every measure.
It's not that Sweatshirt's rapping about anything we haven't heard, exactly, but there's an attention to the line that Jay Z seems to have lost (along with a lot of other rappers, Kendrick excluded.) While hip-hop might be guiltier than any other genre of chasing the next-awesome-thing, if Sweatshirt is where things are headed, that's fine.
Tweet away, Sweatshirt, talk shit. It's money.