Head here to submit your own review of this album.

My introduction to the work of gifted Los Angeles rapper-producer Earl Sweatshirt (birth name: Thebe Neruda Kgositsile) was AG Rojas' video for 'Earl', the titular song from his 2010 mixtape. In the video, a sixteen-year-old Earl and members of the extended Odd Future collective blend up a drug smoothie and consume it. They promptly end up either injuring themselves skateboarding or suffering from violent overdose effects. As arresting as it was, what really stood out to me was Earl's prodigious ability as a storytelling lyricist and technical rhymesmith. Equally impressive was his ear for production, which in this case happened to be a ruptured trunk-thumper produced by Tyler, The Creator.

Close to five years later, Earl is the beginning stages of a world tour in the wake of the March release of I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside, his second studio album. Just under thirty minutes long, it was almost completely produced by Earl under his randomblackdude alias. It's also the most cohesive, consistent, and powerful body of work of his short but celebrated career. Framed up by sludgy funeral march beats and slivers of melody, the record's ten song running time presents a dense, sometimes completely opaque backdrop.

For Earl, a member of the rare breed of rapper who excites and challenges more with every release - and the even rarer breed who started with an era-marking punch, and still continues to progress - it's the perfect musical platform. Snapping up through the murk, he gifts us a dense collection of memories and observations only he could deliver. A relationship coming apart at the seams, memories of his grandmother and her death, and a balanced but brutal analysis of the bittersweet aspects of fame and success. An air of existential exhaustion hangs over the record like a fog, but what feels crucial is knowledge of self. It's about the personal journey Earl has been working through to become okay with himself, for better or worse.

Where his last record Doris was jammed with guest appearances, with I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside Earl has thinned the cast down. Here it's four guest rappers and a single production contribution from Left Brain. Out of Da$h, Wiki (of Ratking), skateboarder-turned-rhymer Na-Kel, and Vince Staples, the most remarkable appearance comes from Na-Kel on 'DNA'. After Earl delivers a confidence drenched verse and hook in a stuttering style, Na-Kel slides through with some gruff-voiced wordplay. Speaking directly to a deceased friend, he fills him in on life's developments with heart-warming flair. On a different album, it would be what is considered a show stealing verse. Here, it's a spark of well-needed optimism. What's also remarkable is how perfectly it underscores Earl's ability to share the spotlight meaningfully while still undeniably calling the shots. I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside is an exceptionally realised and meaningful work from an artist looking well beyond turn up culture in the pursuit of something deeper and longer lasting.

This is the place you'll find reviews from 405 Readers. To join in, head here.