So far 2015 has been the year of modest, understated, low stakes rap releases. Future put out 56 Nights, Young Thug has Barter 6, Rocko released Expect the Unexpected, and Earl Sweatshirt put out what I think is best work yet with I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside and more recently, this trip:
Earl Sweatshirt – Solace
I’m used to wading through at least 20 tracks of of intros, outros, DJ drops, skits, remixes, songs for the club, songs for the car, songs for the ladies, songs featuring the hot R&B artist right now, etc. for the (hopefully) 3 or 4 tracks that I really enjoy listening to on an average new mixtape/album. All of the releases listed above clock in at under one hour and most of them closer to half that, and there seems to be no effort from these artists to pander to all the standard rap sub-audiences for approval. These all feel like very focused exploratory projects made for the love of music rather than the love of radio play and chart numbers.
The best part about this phenomenon is that it feels totally spontaneous. It’s not like somebody famous made a big deal out of taking this more subdued, less pop-oriented approach to a rap project and then everybody started jumping on the bandwagon. Maybe all these artists are hitting some kind of mid-decade introspective mood, or all the racial tension in America right now is making people not want to party like usual, or maybe everybody’s just tired, but for some reason all these different artists started releasing these unusually somber, brief, dark releases with no clear singles and no nod to the standard mass demographics just to exorcize their own creative demons. I hate to call it a trend because the first thing that would ruin a release like this is if somebody did it to be trendy, but I hope that whatever is independently happening in the minds of these artists keeps happening to others because it’s an underexplored avenue for rap that it is actually, as it turns out, quite suited for. But even if this is all we get, I’m happy about it.