By Charlie Gstalder and Gus Nations IV | Staff Writers
On Oct. 31, Earl Sweatshirt released his fourth studio album, FEET OF CLAY. The album is unmistakably Sweatshirt’s, with interesting and jarring beats underneath the gritty New York rapping style that the former Odd Future member is known for.
Thematically, FEET OF CLAY builds off 2018’s Some Rap Songs, as both projects center on Sweatshirt’s depression and grief. As with Some Rap Songs, the death of Sweatshirt’s father, South African poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile, is the primary source of Sweatshirt’s pain.
Fitting with Sweatshirt’s love of brevity, the project is a mere 15 minutes long, making it five minutes shorter than Some Rap Songs, which was in turn five minutes shorter than Sweatshirt’s 2015 release.
As is common with Sweatshirt, most of the album’s songs feature bass heavy beats that contribute to the lo-fi, dark feeling of the album. However, because of a disconnect between lyrics and beat, the production doesn’t match the lyrical presentation.
Additionally, some tracks seem to feature reversed beats. This technique is similar to one employed by Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), the record label featuring Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q. TDE has experimented heavily with both beat and track list reversals, such as in Lamar’s 2017 release, DAMN.
One of the most notable tracks on the album is “EL TORO COMBO MEAL” featuring Mavi. A piano heavy beat sets the song apart from the rest of the dark sounding album. Despite this, the song still sounds a little off as the raspy flow does not adhere to the otherwise smooth-sounding production. There is something a little unsettling about hearing a discordant voice over a beautiful beat. Granted, this may be Sweatshirt’s intent.
The album’s final track, “4N,” featuring Mach-Hommy, also stands out for both its repetitive beat and monotone repetition of the phrase: “Send me an invoice.” Once the monotony is broken by Mach-Hommy’s first verse, the track sounds muddled. The best way to describe the sound is to imagine someone rapping through a thick Plexiglass screen in a box office. It’s not enjoyable, but it’s also impossible to stop listening.
Stylistically, Sweatshirt doesn’t make any huge leaps. While the lack of a style change may be boring to some, a change in style would have been more disappointing given that Sweatshirt has one of the most unique voices in the industry.
Overall, it seems as if Sweatshirt does not want you to be comfortable while listening. The album is both impossible to dance to and impossible to relax to. But that might be the point.
Sweatshirt’s intent in this project was most likely to force the audience to experience his tortured mindset. If that is the case, he succeeded. Nonetheless, its repetitive, unoriginal nature makes the album nothing more than a slightly worse version of Some Rap Songs.