Words by Alex Osborne
It’s taken me years to be persuaded that the ‘kids’ from Odd Future had raps. Stuck in my ways as a cynical, old school hip hop fan, I despised change and had listened to no new albums after about 2006. I wouldn’t give these 19-year-olds the time of day – until this past summer, that is, when I found myself nodding along to the dark vibes of a deep- voiced man with a tight flow. Earl Sweatshirt, undoubtedly one of the great rappers around today. These days I do my best to play Earl as loud as I can in the car, pretending that I’ve been a fan all along.
In town in support of his recent Splendour in the Grass set, fans at Melbourne’s Prince Bandroom eagerly awaited for Earl to take the stage. With an atmosphere more akin to a Saturday night than the Tuesday it was, the line snaked around the entire venue long before doors opened at 8pm.
Always providing a great atmosphere, the St Kilda venue boasts the kind of clear, excellent sound that really does benefit hip hop gigs – considering the lyrical detail that defines most hip hop, a venue’s sound quality can make or break a live show.
Although the gig advertised ‘special guests’, there were none to be seen – no Odd Future crew, no friends, not even an opening act.
A man of few words, Earl jumped straight into the performance with a rousing rendition of Pre. It took a few tracks before he really settled into groove; the crowd lost their shit when he dropped Molasses. Even the bartenders were rapping along.
“Don’t act like you know the words,” he grinned, obviously lapping up the attention and dedication of his Melbourne fans. Line by line, he soon had the entire audience rapping the chorus of Grown Ups, off his most recent release I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside (read our album review here.) Alongside tracks from his new album, Earl wooed the crowd with favourites from solo debut Doris, and even played a brand new song.
His new song, which as far as I can tell is called Mirror, is a little different, a little speedier. A brash, exciting glimpse of what the 21-year-old is capable of, it’ll be interesting to see the direction in which he takes his new music, considering the doom-and-gloom mentality we heard on IDLSIDGO. The future holds countless more dope tracks for the artist who has well and truly etched his name into the wet cement of today’s hip hop.
The die hard fans in ‘Free Earl” t-shirts may have been a little disappointed by the lack of Odd Future tracks throughout the set. It all flipped around however, when he came out to perform Drop for the encore.
This wasn’t a gig that boasted a huge stage show, huge hype-ups or any of that nut-grabbing rap stuff. It was Earl, being himself – and having fun with it. Smiling, laughing and loving the audience, Earl Sweatshirt has well and truly emerged from the Odd Future shadow, and is paving his way to the status of living legend.