Review: Earl Sweatshirt embraces lush production and new opening on “SICK!”

Photo courtesy of Columbia Records

By Jacob Pellegrino 01/18/22 11:30 PM

Rating: ★★★★

Best Track: “Old Friend”

” Sick ! by Earl Sweatshirt sees him using his shortcomings as fuel for personal rebirth and a desire for self-improvement. A lot has changed for Earl since his 2019 EP, “FEET OF CLAY.” At that time, he was struggling with an addiction to alcohol and “an endless loop of self-harm and isolation.” Now he is working on healing by cutting down on his alcohol and drug use while trying to be a good father to his young son.

Earl’s story as an artist has always been tied to addiction. He was even sent to a boarding school in Samoa for at-risk teenagers after his mother found out about his musical debut and drug use with the other members of Odd Future. This period of his life is revisited in the album’s first single, “2010”. The song proves Earl’s personal and musical growth since the start of his career, set to a synthetic beat that sounds almost whimsical in contrast to the subject matter.

The album begins with “Old Friend”, produced by frequent collaborator The Alchemist, which opens cinematically with a heavy bass note that opens with orchestral flourishes and Earl’s vocals. The labored bass line and floating melody work well with Earl’s reflections on the state of the world and his own struggles throughout his 2020 quarantine. The track feels like an exercise in healing after a difficult time brought on by the global pandemic.

Another track, “Tabula Rasa”, which means “blank slate”, features Armand Hammer. The instrumental is based on a vocal and piano loop that creates an almost nostalgic feeling. The song touches on a range of topics such as hope for the future despite past troubles.

The production throughout “SICK!” works well with Earl’s rapping and complements the lyrical content throughout. Even with a range of producers, “SICK!” sounds like a singular work that uses unique samples and beats to enhance the overall message.

“SICK!” ends with “Fire in the Hole,” a track that runs on a relaxed string instrument that puts Earl at the center. Through abstract imagery, the song emphasizes a need to move forward while referencing a relationship. The instrumental ending to “Fire in the Hole” serves as a satisfying conclusion to the album as it slowly fades away.

Earl Sweatshirt’s work on “SICK!” reflects his personal rebirth and a desire to break free from past addictions that had harmed his personal relationships and his life. The album sees Earl embrace lush production and a more open and outgoing lyricism than ever before.

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