ALBUM RATING: 81
Though it’s certainly not uncommon for Earl to utilise his music as an archive for accumulated thoughts, his fourth studio album embodies an uncharacteristically buoyant outlook on the future, in spite of the arduous times in which it was written.
As much as I loved the dreary, lo-fi aesthetic which made ‘Some Rap Songs’ so infectiously raw, the enhanced texturing and polished instrumentation is refreshing to hear on ‘Sick!’. As this coincides with what feels like a reinvigorated sense of hunger, ‘Sick!’ leads me to believe Earl is in a much better mindset, which as a fan, is great to see.
Still, Earl doesn’t shy away from his feelings on this project, with ‘Old Friend’ seeing him immediately confront the conflicts presented by the virus. Determining which to sacrifice, money or health, his apprehension intensifies with the isolated strings, which loop throughout the opening track, before seamlessly transitioning into the album’s lead single, ‘2010’. While nothing we haven’t already heard from Earl in terms of flow and cadence, the fluctuating piano riff beautifully sampled by Black Noi$e, provides what is the perfect trade-off between a melodic instrumental and Earl’s reserved delivery.
Isolation is a prevalent theme throughout Earl’s discography, but unlike the inspiration behind his second album, ‘I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside’, the confinement experienced this time round was also forced upon everyone else around him. For Earl, its likely he found comfort in this unification, as for the first time in years, everyone else is able to empathise with his pain and sorrow. This sense solidarity is reinforced throughout the album, with clever double entendres such as, “I held the page, gave the book ears”, as well as his rekindled spirituality embraced on ‘God Laughs’, providing a new sense of optimism on ‘Sick!’.
Adhering to the concise formula he’s implemented on previous records, Earl is able to capture his feelings in a matter of words. But the poetic manner in which this is achieved enables a vast amount of substance to be densely packed across double, and even triple entendres. Its this precision with the pen which makes Earl so enticing, allowing him to say so much on tracks as brief as ‘Lobby (int)’, which barely exceed 1 minute.
As impressive as the concise tracks are on ‘Sick!’, it’s the extended cuts which take the album to the next level. ‘Tabula Rasa’ is one of these moments, with E L U C I D, Billy Woods, and Earl taking it in turns to deliver what are three extremely personal verses, which are made to feel more melancholic in the presence of the arpeggiated piano sample which loops throughout the 4 minute track. Equally as spectacular is the closing ‘Fire in the Hole’, where Earl’s optimism is reinforced by lyrics; “The shield took a couple chinks, but it never broke”, preceding the instrumental outro which beautifully represents the light at the end of the tunnel.
Overall, ‘Sick!’ introduced a new side to Earl, and although he strayed back to the dejected muffled vocals on occasion, it was the rich instrumentation and inspired delivery which made this album so enjoyable.
Favourite Tracks: Old Friend, 2010, Tabula Rasa, Lye, Titanic, Fire in the Hole
Worst Track: Sick!