Doris, the debut studio album by Los Angeles rapper and Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt, deserves a second listen. The brilliance of the quick and complex lyricism of the young artist can be missed on the initial run-through.
One of the most anticipated hip-hop albums of 2013, Doris arrived with some head scratches. Some critics see it as not living up to its hype. Odd Future ass kissers Pitchfork gave the album an 8.3 out of 10, Rolling Stone a 3.5 out of 5 and the A.V. Club a C+.
While these outlets may be privy to information beyond this humble author, I believe that when taking into consideration the smaller, fragile intricacies of the album, it deserves higher praise.
Admittedly, Doris has some major disappointments. For starters, the amount of features on this album is ridiculous. However, the often overlooked lyrical complexity has subtle and smart connection. The intense imagery lays bare an overarching tone that brings the album together.
“Something sinister to it / Pendulum swinging slow, a degenerate moving,” Earl raps on “Chum,” one of his few solo songs. He simultaneously touches on the tone of the album, his life pace and his insecurities in one line – a prime example of how Earl’s lyrics reach both deep and wide in a short span of time.
While the album may not be Earl in perfect form, it still has bright spots throughout that give the listener some classic Earl tracks.
“Sunday,” an offbeat and catchy track, is produced by and stars Odd Future member Frank Ocean. Ocean has been heralded as a new force in the R&B genre, and his debut album channel ORANGE was adored by critics. However, on “Sunday,” Ocean trades in his trademark smooth singing voice for a darker flow, displaying his rarely seen rap side. While it’s not necessarily classic Frank Ocean, the off-kilter verse he spits is pleasing to the ear, and the hook will have you rapping along with both Earl and Ocean.
Another dimension of the album develops in songs “Sasquatch” and “Whoa,” that of the relationship between Tyler, the Creator and Earl. Tyler quips about not being famous anymore, while Earl relays his appreciation for what he has always seen as an older brother figure.
As the first studio release from the young rapper, Doris works very well. However, a large gap exists between what Earl Sweatshirt fans were hoping for and what they received. There’s not enough Earl on Doris to make it a great album, but it’s a harbinger of great things to come.
4 out of 5 stars