Released March 23, 2015
29 min, 56 sec
When Earl Sweatshirt made his long-awaited return with 2013’s Doris, there were a lot of ways in which it didn’t really feel like the big comeback it was hyped up to be. Sweatshirt himself has said about as much in the aftermath of the album’s release, and it’s clear in how Sweatshirt buries himself in features from friends and bigger figures in the industry, often to the detriment of each song. Sweatshirt is at his best when he doesn’t have anyone around him taking up time on his songs, and he really proves this on what he referred to as his “real” debut album, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside.
That album title should be enough for anyone to discern what this album is about. I Don’t Like Shit is the sound of a young man trapped by his own fame, stuck inside his own head, the weight of expectation still bearing down on him, three full years after his return from “exile” in Samoa. This is an album about depression, and there’s no way around it. Much of the album is concerned with Sweatshirt’s attempts to escape his fame, with frequent mentions of his mother, a woman who received the brunt of the Odd Future-fueled frustration following Sweatshirt’s year-long trip to Samoa to straighten out his attitude.
That year clearly weighs heavily on him, particularly on “Faucet,” where he makes frequent references to his tenure, as well as his mother and what she taught him before and after. Sweatshirt was sent to an academy for troubled youth when he was seventeen, something his mother did in response to his increasingly dangerous antics in the wake of his explosion of Internet fame following the release of Earl in 2010. With Sweatshirt’s disappearance came question after question, many of which Odd Future founder Tyler, the Creator dodged or answered with deflective non-answers or hyperbole, at one time declaring that Sweatshirt was “dead.” But he wasn’t dead, and word soon got out that Sweatshirt had been sent away by his mother, and the “Free Earl” campaign began, fueled by every member of Odd Future, referenced on every album released by the group between 2011 and Sweatshirt’s 2012 return. “Free Earl,” however, quickly became a catchphrase, a marketing tactic for Odd Future, and Sweatshirt found himself incredibly uncomfortable with it, particularly because of the backlash against his mother, from fans who had no real idea what was going on, using her as a scapegoat. Even Tyler expressed a degree of regret on his 2011 album Goblin, with the lines “niggas sayin’ “Free Earl” without even knowin’ him / see, they’re missing the new album / I’m missing my only friend” present in album closer “Golden.”
Sweatshirt returned to a deluge of praise and attention, with many proclaiming that one of the greatest rappers of the 2000s was finally about to make his mark properly. Doris was crushed under the weight of expectation; I Don’t Like Shit takes those expectations and internalizes them, pushing out an album of aggression and viciousness, all while exposing a surprising amount of vulnerability for Sweatshirt. Many of the beats, composed by Sweatshirt himself, are jazz-influenced, slow and melancholy to match Sweatshirt’s easy, deep flow. The features are cut back significantly; the first real guest verse doesn’t come in until track 7, with the first half of the album completely devoid of any voice besides Sweatshirt’s. I Don’t Like Shit, far more than Doris before it, is the pure sound of Sweatshirt’s mind. Family and love are common topics, “DNA” in particular, where both Sweatshirt’s verse and Na’kel’s verse discuss missing loved ones. The songs have a power to them, building on the sort of sentiment that Doris single “Chum” introduced two years prior, wrapping the entire album around the same concepts of loneliness and the price of fame.
I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside came out of nowhere, and its thirty minutes of music constitute Earl Sweatshirt’s proper arrival, three years after his exile ended. The man viewed here is one weighed down by his fame, brought back as a messiah for the genre at the ripe old age of eighteen. Perhaps I Don’t Like Shit is a way out; perhaps it is just the next step in an endless cycle of fame and the pain that it brings.