2011 was a decent year, as far as years I barely remember go, filled with a number of firsts in my life: my first time living in an independent apartment; my first time spending an entire summer away from New York; my first time ever hearing the names Tyler, The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, Taco, and Odd Future. I would like to say that I was ahead of the crowd and had been following the OFWGKTA since their formation or the start of their war with 2dopboyz; however, like majority of fans, my introduction to them came from Tyler’s jarring “Yonkers” video.

Once hooked, Odd Future’s savvy blog tactics and internet presence made me music addict tendencies impossible to control. The entire crews music was available online, FOR FREE, and it was clear that these guys had something special. Yeah, there was an unhealthy amount of unmentionable activities mentioned and there seemed to be some contest to use the most filthy Urban Dictionary phrases onto song, but their talent and budding genius was undeniable. Especially the awkward looking, youngest member Earl.

Even through all of the rape lines and the strange video of kids bleeding from their nipples, Earl’s flow kept everyone who visited my apartment enamored. The boy could spit and he was filled with this youthful vigor; to me he symbolized the passionate naivete of being young gifted, and black. He could do almost anything on a track and he knew it, routinely experimenting with wordplay and delivery for fun. In a strange, unduly burdening way, Earl was almost a hero to me. He was an outcast that we could believe in, he was our generation’s answer to Nas and Rakim. Impossibly gifted and keenly aware of his time.

Fast forward to 2015, after being shipped off to a Samoan Island, coming back, releasing a debut album, and touring the world, Earl has released his sophomore project, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, for me to listen to on the way to work. On my brief walk, the sun is shinning, the sky is a majestic blue, kids are being walked to class, and a homeless woman is not-so-subtly scratching her ass: by all accounts it is a beautiful morning and a glorious day (besides for the fact that I’m going to an office). At this point, “Huey” has stopped playing and “Mantra” makes itself known with a fiery chanting chorus, while I’m walking down a slippery Staten Island hill. It is at this moment that a sense of dread falls over me, as an all too familiar feeling starts to make it way up to my cerebral cortex…

…”I’m really bored right now (also I have no idea what the cerebral cortex does, so there’s that as well)!”

Earl’s career reminds me of life after college a lot: you start off incredibly energetic, ready to show off the talents you just paid an enormous amount of money for (Earl); then, you reach your first speed bump and everything slows down, you have to really reflect on what you want to do (Doris); finally, now equipped with your “academic” and more useful life skills, you are better prepared to face what you actually want to do and make the necessary moves to get there (I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside).

Sweatshirt has made it incredibly clear that I Don’t Like Shit is the album he always wanted to make, the LP’s cohesiveness is further testament to this fact. While on ten tracks long, the record boasts some of Earl’s most confident lines and his best production to date. Once again, you can’t help but come away with the knowledge that on his best day, the on-again, off-again Odd Future member could probably take on your favorite rapper in a battle and win. There are stand out lines on every track and he has completely left all of the old, gimmicky horrorcore in his past.

Mental health is an important topic for America and especially the Black community to discuss. Earl has suffered from depression and other related issues, which makes his vulnerability on tracks  like “Grief” so wonderful and sorely needed. I Don’t Like Shit is the album he that truly vocalizes all of his insecurities and disdain for the outside societal pressures. His honesty on tracks like “Faucet” and “Mantra,” is more of a breath of fresh air than his rhyming talent.

Unfortunately, I Don’t Like Shit is damn near lifeless. Please note that I didn’t say bad, the entire project feels lethargic. While, Earl is far more successful than me in his chosen occupation, I do think that I have some understanding as to what he was attempting to put forth on this project. I’m only in my earlier twenties as well, but the immensity of being this “adult” thing and having more responsibility can render you motionless, scared to take the next step. As a world famous artist, Earl doesn’t really have the luxury of just sitting on his bed, in his mother’s basement, watching Netflix for years (even though he has enough money to), because his fans and almighty label are expecting work. So he took to his art and I Don’t Like Shit was the result.

As I was walking, I just wanted it to be over. It seem to just meander on end, never picking up any energy and just being comfortable in grey. I enjoyed quite a few moments, but as a listening experience…I can’t say the same. Earl seems to have lost all the youthful vigor, and like his friend, Mac Miller, turned to the dark side. Clearly, Sweatshirt is maturing, but lo-fi, out of sequence drums, barely audible samples, and vocal filters don’t necessarily translate to growing. Art doesn’t have to be dark to be deep, and a lot of deepness” is actually quite shallow.

Lil Herb, Chief Keef, Lil Bibby, and some Katie Got Bandz flows lace the album all throughout. There were moments where Earl doesn’t sound right, thanks to his Chicago inspiration being so transparent. “Grown Ups” sounds like it could be a Lil Herb b-side, which isn’t a good thing for a semi-premier artist. Once you combine his strange delivery with the average beats, I Don’t Like Shit loses some its gripping power.

I can never and will never give up on Earl Sweatshirt. He gave us the heart-wrenching “Chum,” a metric tonne of quotable bars, and a unique story to follow. It just sucks to see him in a proverbial rut; a moment that is sure to pass, but has influenced his music. I’m passed it fam, way passed it.