After two year’s hiatus, 17-year old “prodigy” of rap group Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA), launched his twitter account, announcing that Earl Sweatshirt is “home.” Shortly after, a youtube video with a snippet of an unheard track featured Sweatshirt demanding 50,000 followers on twitter within a day in exchange for new music. Three hours later, demand met. Fans have stormed twitter with rejoice at his return. Newly released song “Home” has gone viral. And 15-year-old-potty-mouth-prodigy turned disappearing-act turned student-at-a-Somoan-boarding-school is now ‘back’ with a latest of over 100,000 twitter followers and likely even more fans wondering “What’s next?”
Earl Sweatshirt was the youngest, but a highlighted, member of Odd Future when he dropped off in 2011. Despite his reputation for being the most poetic of Odd Future, his lyrics have been targeted for the dark, violent, often predatory language. At Chicago’s annual Pitchfork Music Festival this past summer, the booking of Odd Future’s acts (not including Earl) sparked a coalition of advocacy groups to launch an anti-violence against women campaign centered around the festival. Speculation has indicated that the profane, violent nature of his lyrics were part of the motivation for the actions of the minor’s mother to put a pause on his career. In a statement to the New Yorker, she explained her perspective on the situation:
“There is a person named Thebe who preëxisted Earl. That person ought to be allowed to explore and grow, and it’s very hard to do that when there’s a whole set of expectations, narratives, and stories that are attached to him.”
Earl Sweatshirt also made a statement in denial of claims that he was being held against his will. He continued:
“So time progresses and the fan base gets bigger and the ‘Free Earl’ chants get louder but now with the ‘Free Earl’ chants come a barely indirect ‘Fuck Earl’s Mom’ and in the blink of an eye my worry changes from ‘will there still be this hype when I get back’ to ‘Oh shit I just inspired a widespread movement of people who are dedicated to the downfall of my mom.’”
During his absence, Tyler Craven, a former classmate at the Coral Reef Academy that Sweatshirt attended in Samoa participated in an interview in which he claimed that these were not genuinely Earl’s words and that Sweatshirt had intentions of releasing music criticizing the school and his mother when he left. It seems that the doubtful legitimacy of Craven’s sentiments has been clarified by Earl Sweatshirt’s tweet last night: “oh. btw. i do not remotely f*** with tyler craven even kind of.” Despite tweeting of his frustrations that he is “the subject of the most ridiculous myths and theories of this decade,” Earl has yet to give any hints at whether or not he will continue to work with Odd Future. Later this month (Feb. 20), Odd Future will release the collective’s second album. Tyler, the Creator mentioned this week that Earl Sweatshirt will not be on it. Maybe we will be surprised. Tyler is a notorious prankster, having falsely announced the “return” of Earl in November only to disappoint fans with the joke.
The new track “Home” assures fans that there will be a future for Earl Sweatshirt and his mind-blowing rhymes. The song has a slightly different tone, content focused on concern about the misguided “Free earl” hype and hope for Earl Sweatshirt the writer. It lacks the violent tone of “Earl” that the artist left us with just two years ago. What does this mean for the future?
A highly glossed over fact about Earl Sweatshirt is that his father is Keorapetse (William) Kgositsile, a prestigious South African poet of a very different strain than Odd Future. “Home” contains a shout-out, Earl rapping”the option of being modest just walked to where my father went.” Whether this is a geographical reference to the ocean between their separate lives, or to the fame of his father is unclear, but what is clear is that poetic tendencies are in Earl Sweatshirt’s blood and he is intent on pursuing them.