Member of rap collective Odd Future and Wolf Gang (oft stylized as Golf Wang by the group) affiliate, Earl Sweatshirt, brings out his personality articulately in his debut, Doris, and loyally supports his original posse of hip hoppers known as OFWGKTA, or Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. Earl's eponymous 2010 mix-tape and Odd Future's mix-tapes and The OF Tape Vol. 2 album have rapidly built up the hype behind the group leading to many of the group members' solo projects including this 2013 release by Earl himself. Earl colorfully presents his world of frustrations, struggles, friendships, and successes on Doris to the tone of a mellow recital of silky smooth lyrical rhymes equipped with supportive guest artists and semi-soft productions.
For a rising star in rap who seemingly had a hard time forming his identity growing up, Thebe Neruda Kgositsile has done a satisfactory job forming his rap identity on his first LP. He raps about how being torn between the white crowd and the black crowd as a kid and how the absence of his poet father for part of his childhood created some troubling confusion and angst for him during his tenderest of years. Despite these truths his passion for music and the stability fostered in him at the Samoan rehabilitation school he attended helped Earl to strengthen his rap group and solo career, leaving him comfortable and confident to handle the weighty areas in rap like threats, condescension, over the top boasts, and bragging with firm resolve and conviction. Despite his bad boy side Earl is also strikingly philosophical and perceptive on the album.
There are references to Tupac Shakur and Earl's West coast origins here, giving insight into his influences and inspirations, and from the Odd Future collective, Tyler The Creator, Frank Ocean, and Domo Genesis all make appearances on the album. Mac Miller delivers a super smooth flow of soft yet complex and advanced rhymes on "Guild," and RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan lends his signature vocals for power and credibility on "Molasses" without becoming overbearing throughout the song.
The beats here are never shoved in your face or flashy; on the contrary, they are gently coupled against Earl's easy going, conversational lyrics making for a smooth, casual feel with just a hint of hip hop drum poundings throughout. The sometimes eerie, sometimes frightful, whiny, synthesized loops common in the beats of the Odd Future universe are used for Doris, which makes for a sound that ties Earl into his groups' overarching domain and provides great fun for dedicated fans.
On Doris Earl Sweatshirt is rough and tough and wise and insightful all at the same time, and he gives us a modest sized window into his personal life without giving away too much. It is through this window that we get to know this maturing young man and his ideas even better. The album is uniquely thought provoking, giving it originality and replay value for the disillusioned among us. Although downright depressing at times, Doris captures the true essence of the dreariness of the ordinary realities of life like no other hip hop album has ever done before.