Earl Sweatshirt - “SICK!” Album Review

Story posted January 18, 2022 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by Caelan Chevrier

Rapper, songwriter and producer Earl Sweatshirt is back with his newest record, “SICK!,” after nearly four years from his latest critically acclaimed album, “Some Rap Songs.” This is his fourth major-label record, and he proves to have some of the best consistency with his releases due to his inconsistency in songwriting.

He released three singles before the album, and fans expected a high-quality record. Luckily, he delivered, soaring beyond expectations.

“SICK!” continues to show that Earl pushes the boundaries of the rap genre via his introspective lyrics and nonlinearity of tracks.

The album is structured uniquely, with only ten tracks and a runtime of 24 minutes, Earl has plenty to say and delivers excellently. A majority of the tracks are between one to two minutes long, while the ones with longer runtimes have features. Even in such a short time, Earl delivers food for thought about isolation, the pandemic, family conflict, and racial relations.

Initially, the album was supposed to turn out differently. In a recent interview, Earl Sweatshirt noted that he scrapped nearly an entire album's worth of material as he thought it was too optimistic and political given the current times the world is in. Instead of that, listeners got “SICK!,” a reflection of emotionally charged feelings that are dark and secluded.

Most of the songs do not have choruses, a catchy hook, or any punchlines. Playing any of these indeterminate tracks may be perplexing to a casual rap listener, as no one knows where he may go next.

Earl is mostly monochromatic throughout the project. Yet, he finds a way to bring so much power to his voice without ever having to raise it or change his tonality. That was the goal here, as one of the album’s greatest strengths is its ambiance and atmosphere that is created through lyrical and melodic devices.

Production-wise, this newest record might be the most stellar yet. Featuring a small but familiar catalog of producers, most notably The Alchemist and Black Noi$e, they help set the tone for the album. Through soul samples, piano, intricate drum patterns and even spoken word samples, “SICK!” sounds like nothing else from his contemporaries. The only thing that even comes close may be a Freddie Gibbs or an MF DOOM record.

One of the more outstanding records in his discography, the lead single “2010”, features an infectious synthesizer arpeggio that is mesmerizing when layered on top of Earl’s vocals. It is the most accessible track on the album but is still certainly left-field.

Similarly, “Vision (feat. Zelooperz)” features a lush piano loop that plays up and down its scale. The vinyl crackle and backing vocals transform the already beautiful track into something completely out of this world.

Even the slower tracks such as “Lye,” and “God Laughs” have melancholy undertones but feature peak lyricism. Every single track is worth a listen, even the ones that don’t initially stand out at first.

Similar to the closer of “Some Rap Songs,” the last minute of the album is an instrumental, giving listeners time to reflect on what they had just heard. This time, a reverberated piano solo plays something stunning yet sad. “Fire in the Hole” is a perfect conclusion to an album that works so well because of its diversification in its instrumentals.

Overall, “SICK!” is something truly special. It is hard to say when something so groundbreaking will be released again.

Throwing any sort of formula out the window, Earl Sweatshirt proves that genuine creativity and imagination will always be more impactful to listeners as a whole.

Rating: 8/10

Reviewer’s Favorite Songs: “2010,” “Vision (feat. Zelooperz),” “Fire in the Hole”

Reviewer’s Least Favorite Songs: “Lobby (int)”


Caelan Chevrier is a second year majoring in journalism. To contact him, email cjc6789@psu.edu.

About the Contributors

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Caelan Chevrier

Third Year / Marketing & Journalism

Caelan Chevrier is a third-year student in the Smeal College of Business at Penn State University studying marketing and broadcast journalism with the goal of graduating with a bachelor’s degree in four years. His career goal is to spread informative, meaningful, and entertaining content across various platforms and to be a positive impact on the community. He has also spent time working at WWE in the communications department and writing for The Westport Local Press in his hometown of Westport, CT. If you’d like to contact him, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).