Earl Sweatshirt’s ‘Feet of Clay’ leaves listeners wanting more

Earl Sweatshirt

Feet of Clay

Tan Cressida/Warner Records · November 1, 2019

For fans of the now-defunct California rap collective Odd Future, life is great. Tyler, the Creator, the unofficial leader, released the critically acclaimed Igor. Frank Ocean, notoriously sporadic, has released two more tracks recently after a year long hiatus following the release of “Moon River.” Then there is Earl Sweatshirt, another fan favorite of the collective, whose career progression has been interesting to examine. 

Earl, the pseudonym of Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, blew up along with the collective’s success, but was set back when sent to a boarding school for troubled youth in American Samoa. When he returned, he dropped Doris to both commercial and critical success. Following its release was 2015’s I Don’t Like S*** I Don’t Go Outside, which was similarly acclaimed. Then there was nothing. Years of silence, his fan base growing starving for more Earl. Other than the occasional feature, there was no public release of an Earl track until 2018. November 11, 2018 saw the release of a single titled “Nowhere2go,” a fresh, comparatively experimental track teasing a similarly experimental album, Some Rap Songs. Like most OF-collective releases fans expected a hiatus after this album. However, almost a year after Some Rap Songs, Earl surprised fans by announcing an EP named Feet of Clay to be released at midnight on Halloween. 

The term “feet of clay” refers to a weak point in a structure or figure, and it could not be a more apt title for this album. Feet of Clay brings listeners into the mind of Earl after the death of his father in January 2018. Some Rap Songs’ rough, unfinished style bleeds into this project as well, contributing heavily to the chaotic feel of someone going through the loss of an important figure in their life. For Earl, his father was his weak point, his clay feet. With a fifteen minute run-time, Feet of Clay manages to chew up and spit back out the listener with ease. 

The opening track “74” uses a plethora of sports analogies to detail his living post the death of his father. Earl provides deep messages for his audience about living to the fullest and making sure that both mental and physical health are kept in balance, with truisms like “Protect your neck and don’t forget the heart.” “EAST” reflects on his past struggles with addiction and the loss of his loved ones, backed by an almost circus-like accordion. The title designates the east as the “old world,” the past he left behind in order for a better future. He realizes the mistakes he made in his past as he tries to live in the present. The rest of the EP tackles similar themes, consistently self-reflecting and working through his current chaos. 

“OD” and “EL TORO COMBO MEAL” are the highlights of seven track run with their skillful uses of sampling mixed with Earl’s masterful songwriting. “EAST” constitutes the lowest point. While the lyrics are great, the repetitive accordion begins to feel grating after around thirty seconds. On the whole, this record’s lyricism and beats are on an extremely high level of quality throughout the entire body of work, with his signature delivery and analogies on full display. The best and worst quality of the EP is that it leaves the listener wanting more. This want has nothing to do with the tracks’ quality, but rather the fact that the world needs more Earl, and soon.

Listen to Feet of Clay:

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