After Earl Sweatshirt released his third studio album Some Rap Songs last year, I thought it would be the last time I would hear from the gifted artist for a a few years. So I was pleasantly surprised to find out he was releasing an extended play titled FEET OF CLAY, and now that it’s out and I had a chance to digest it, I’m super excited to share my thoughts on it.
It’s just 7 tracks long, with two guest features in MAVI (on “EL TORO COMBO MEAL”) and Mach-Hommy on “4N” with Alchemist producing the stunningly soulful “MTOMB,” and a 15 minute run time. He’s an expert in brevity, as expressed on the quirky and odd “EAST” where he says “I keep my sentences short.” His poignant lyricism makes him a quotable rapper, and trust me there are loads on this project. Firstly, the title sticks out to me. Feet of Clay is a term used to express a character flaw in prominent, famous people. It actually originates from the Old Testament, in particular (Dan.2:31-32), which explains how Daniel interprets a dream for Nebuchadnezzar, founder of the new Babylonian Empire. In it, “this great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.” This could explain somewhat the dark album artwork, with a goat laying down in a forest, on soft soil. It could represent weakness, as the expression before explains. Within this project, Earl seems to confront and be at peace with his flaws, taking steps to address them throughout the project.
It starts with the dense and textured “74,” which features an off-kilter muddled beat and introspective verses referencing the likes of Amare Stoudemire and Steph Curry. On “EAST” he laments and ponders over the loss of people closest to him including his father, producing lyrics like “I wait to be the light shimmering from a star/
Cognitive dissonance shattered and the necessary venom restored.” The poignancy of these lyrics hit hard. The quirky, accordion-looped beat has alienated many, but to be honest, it’s kinda catchy and gives it this weird, off-kilter vibe. Also, personally I’ve listened to far weirder music, so I like it. The Alchemist-produced “MTOMB” is stunning, probably my favourite on the entire project. The bar that stood out the most to me was “Piscean just like my father, still got bones to pick out.” The imagery on that line alone is crazy and so vivid. “OD” is crazy too, as he talks more about his struggles with keeping his mental health positive in amidst of all the loss he’s had in his life. ” I watched a child get introduced to violence” is one line that stands out, while “Come get to know me at my innermost / My family business anguished, now I need atonement” still shows the extent of his pain. “EL TORO COMBO MEAL” features colourful production from Ovrkast. MAVI though… that man shined his beam of light to the world, truly. That verse was stunning in every sense of the word. Raw, honest and incredibly moving. let the sun talk was a stunning album, and with lyrics like “I promised I’d bury the grudge, preparing the carrion grub
Larry Oops, I was lost in the alley, in the air but not sunk / I spun ’til the lost of my grandmama buried the dunk,” he really shined through on this one. Thanks MAVI, genuinely for that verse, and bless you truly for the energy you bring on record. “TISK TISK/COOKIES” is a densely produced, almost chaotic track, especially the first half of it, with Earl seeming contained in a loop, while the second half breaks into this gorgeous piano-sampled instrumental, with Earl talking about mourning and family, while stating on the chorus “Sunny day, but I’m cooking inside/ Muddy path, but I’m taking my time,” showing a gram of optimism that makes me happy to hear. “4N” features some incredibly harmonies from Mach-Hommy. I was worried he wouldn’t have a verse because the track took a while to build, but when he started, he absolutely snapped. The backwards, OutKast “Vibrate” type beat acts as if it’s trying to rewind Earl’s thoughts, and the near 5-minute run time gives the track the opportunity to breathe properly. A fitting end to a dense project.
Overall… where do I start? Firstly, FEET OF CLAY seems like a fitting continuation from his last album Some Rap Songs. With looped samples, a dark, eerie and avant-garde tone, it’s a truly captivating and interesting listen. I do feel however that while Some Rap Songs was stuck in this continuous loop for the majority of the album with loops and repeated thoughts that finally broke free with the last track “Riot!,” this is a different type of album. The production feels more textured and warm (with the exception of “EAST”). The beats are more lavish and soulful, with a more optimistic and forward-thinking message throughout. Earl is in a better place despite still mourning over the loss of close ones in his life. His vivid lyricism and clever wordplay throughout makes this project one I’ll revisit for some time, as there are many quotables throughout. So thanks Thebe for this beautiful body of work, keep shining man, and hope you keep pushing sonic boundaries, because this really is one of the best produced projects of the year. Peace.
Listen to Earl Sweatshirt’s new project FEET OF CLAY below via Spotify and don’t forget to support! Released via Tan Cressida, Inc., under exclusive licence to Warner Records Inc.