Soulful, coarse and blunt — that’s how I’d describe Sick! to someone who’s never heard Earl Sweatshirt before. The West Coast artist grew up in the limelight with the likes of Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator as members of the collective Odd Future. But after the group’s separation, Earl battled with depression and addiction for years in complete solitude. This culminated with the release of I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside in 2015, an incredibly stripped back and vulnerable record that’s been a pillar in underground hip hop for more than half a decade.

A three-year hiatus and the loss of Earl’s father in 2018 led to Some Rap Songs — arguably his best solo album — released in the same year. Now, after two years of a global pandemic and the birth of his first child, Earl is back again with his latest album. Sick! feels like a natural step forward, without Earl forgetting what has brought him to this very moment. This is a letter to him, from a fan of not just his music, but of Earl Sweatshirt as a person. 

To Earl,

Staying inside so often must’ve made life easier when we all had to stay home. The virus was more than just the sickness itself, and the only thing you caught quarantining was some peace and quiet. 

You were ahead of the curve

and remain so

even after years of turmoil. 

Your age is now more than double mine when I fell in love with your music. You’re 27, and since I was 13, something unattainable has resided in what you create. You’ve had the vision, while all of us are searching for the map that led you to it. 

Your success is our success,

not just as fans your music, 

But as fans of watching you get better. 

Sick! is ironically the next step in your growth. You finally sound like you got the antibodies that still elude me — that elude many of us. 

But indulging in your growth, both personally and musically, is never from a place of jealousy. Rather, your music is home to the hope that one day I could feel the same emotions your music evokes. 

The highs and lows of this installment seem to reflect the path that your career has taken. They resemble a playlist, curated by the emotions you’ve felt being in the spotlight for so long. 

You manage to revel in the present and reflect on the past in the same breath. You’re moving forward, while keeping the past in your brain’s back pocket. 

Hearing this feels a lot like listening to Tyler, the Creator’s new joint. Of course, the musical lanes the two of you have forged are distinct. Anybody who’s listened to the vibrations you’ve put down can discern that. 

That being said, the two of you will forever be linked in our hearts for better or for worse. You’ve both grown up. And so have we, with your music playing — both in the background and at the forefront — during life’s most memorable moments.

Your words have left an indelible impact on my life. Sick! delivers those words at yet another stage in life. It continues the game of leapfrog that your albums have played, as life’s warmth seems to radiate even more intensely with each release. I’m glad that those rays are finally hitting you.


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