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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

On The Beat: “SICK!” by Earl Sweatshirt


Earl Sweatshirt’s journey towards musical maturity has always fascinated me. Like his friend and fellow Odd Future member, Tyler, The Creator, Earl began his music career as a crude, childish rapper just goofing off with his friends. However, as time went on, his lyricism and production style became more thoughtful and introspective.

His latest album “SICK!” was released on Jan. 14, providing a brief look into his mind. The album acts as his response to major current events from the past two years: the coronavirus, Black Lives Matter protests and economic crashes. His unenthusiastic, extremely precise flow and delivery, paired with the sad and sometimes groggy instrumentals, mimic a feeling of dread and emptiness– something many of us relate to.

“Old Friend” makes for a great start to the album; it’s written like a poem summarizing the events of 2020 and 2021. Earl is talking to, as the title suggests, an old friend he hasn’t seen in a while, likely from having to quarantine. With so much happening and so little contact, Earl dumps everything he’s been feeling onto this person. Through it all, even though they haven’t seen each other in a long time, Earl is happy they stayed friends.

Many of the vocal samples that act as monologues to some of the songs’ endings add to the album’s insight. The title track, “Sick!” ends with a snippet of a speech from Fela Kuti, a Nigerian instrumentalist. Kuti says that in Africa, “music cannot be for enjoyment, music has to be for revolution.” Inspired by this, Earl uses this album to not only react to two years’ worth of major crises, but to also criticize the United States’ response to them.

The production on this album does a great job of conveying a range of emotions to the listener. “Sick!” has a dreary piano sample and a simple percussion line, consisting only of a single repeated clap. Paired with Earl’s tired and mumbled delivery, the song perfectly conveys the feeling of being sick with covid-19: the groggy feeling and the boredom of isolation.

My favorite instrumental moment comes at the end of the album’s final song, “Fire in the Hole.” The second half loops the sad guitar solo that began the song, eventually fading into a beautiful but equally sad piano section. For just a moment, it pulls you out of the scary, depressing and painful two years Earl spent the entire album describing. You simply live in this beautiful, serene and peaceful place. But at the same time, the final dissonant chord conveys one of the most relevant feelings many of us have had throughout these two years: will this all ever truly come to an end?

This album marks Earl’s first major project since the deluxe version of “FEET OF CLAY” released in July of 2020. He’s spent the last two years watching and reflecting, and this album is the summation of that long stretch of time. It’s a fantastic insight into the mind of Earl Sweatshirt and the overall feelings of a world living through major historical events. We’re tired, we’re hurt, we’re SICK!




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