How does one find the perfect words to describe life-changing events, the oppressiveness of living in a constant state of stress caused by a pandemic, and reflections of the past? Nobody pays me enough to answer that question. Luckily, I don’t have to, because Earl Sweatshirt discovered the cheat code.
SICK!, his fourth album, is inspired by this moment in time. But it’s not just the COVID in the air on his mind. Since the last time we heard him in 2019, Earl said “hi” to fatherhood, cut back on his alcohol, and rediscovered his religion. Any one of those things is enough to pen something the size of a Greek epic poem. But all three? And in the face of, well, all of this? That’s a lot to process.
The mere fact Earl only took 25 minutes to say it all with his chest is a testament to his talent. SICK!, out today (January 14th), is a dense, thoughtful, insightful exercise in rap technique without any of the intimidation associated with those words. More importantly for anyone reading this, it’s just damn good music.
As soon as those opening lines from “Old Friend” hit, the headspace Earl currently inhabits is clear. “Strong spirit where the body couldn’t get asylum/ the cost of living high don’t cross the picket line and get the virus.” Those two bars act as SICK!’s thesis statement, while summarizing pretty much everyone’s feelings. Earl, usually a very insular rapper focusing on how situations affect him, finally looks out at the rest of the world and feels something.