Earl Sweatshirt - Hive (feat. Vince Staples and Casey Veggies) | Track Review | By Volume

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Earl Sweatshirt

Hive (feat. Vince Staples and Casey Veggies)

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Author: on July 24, 2013

Earl Sweatshirt has had a lot on his plate compared to what’s generally expected of a teenager. He rose to prominence as part of the vitriolic, polarizing and unavoidable Odd Future collective, where he garnered recognition for his 2010 mixtape, simply titled Earl. Then he disappeared. Last year, it emerged that his mother had sent him to a school in Somoa during his period of musical abstinence, in order to drive out some of the bad habits he’d fallen into. Earl’s return, though, was a triumphant one, his first verse written after exile surfacing at the climax of Odd Future posse cut “Oldie”, in which his Nas-like monosyllabic rhymes revealed a glint of his talent’s maturity. The prodigious rapper declared his upcoming album, Doris, would be a departure from his previously outrageous and prone-to-indiscriminately-offend lyrical themes, perhaps alienating his established fanbase. Numerous delays have held Earl back; it’s a climate where even as a 19-year-old, running his own imprint through Sony and yet to release a debut album, he’s being written off by ex-fans. Earl is more than prepared to fight for his own, though, dropping “Hive” along with a new mixtape a mere month before Doris is due.

Characteristically, “Hive” begins with minimal fanfare, Earl reeling out his manifesto from the offset over a low-end, skulking beat. His main policy is to spit in the face of doubters: “Written to fix learning them digits and simultaneously / Dispelling ‘one-trick pony’ myths, isn’t he?” With a delivery styled as stream of consciousness, less like the conversational ways of Ghostface Killah and more like a relentless barrage of technicality from your university lecturers, Earl maintains the explosive, vivid vocabulary he thrived on prior to going AWOL. He conserves the energy he could spend attacking sensibilities, diverting it to lines spent propping up his own self. Aggravated by others’ attempts to shoebox him already, he maintains, “The description doesn’t fit, is not a synonym of menace,” paying dues to everyone from Gil-Scott Heron and DOOM to the Kraken and Mr. Hyde. Verses are split with Casey Veggies going back and forth with Earl on the hook, talking the type of brag-talk one would expect with a little word-play as the accompaniment.

The last verse is given to Vince Staples over a seamless transition backed by a foreboding chant, wherein the spirit of the track is carried through, Vince signing off with his nickname: “Ruger with the pork face, Jewish for the court case / Here to save you niggas from the sorbet, Coldchain.” Earl’s made it clear he’s getting better and better without losing what made him great to listen to in the first place, and the only real worry is whether all of his forthcoming album will consist of minimal beats placing all the focus – perhaps too much – on the voice of the young artist. “Hive”, along with “Whoa” and the excellent “Chum”, will appear on the release. Plenty has been going on in rap in 2013, and Earl is keen to get in on the antics, having thrown down the gauntlet long ago. Doris is set to release on August 20th, and there’s plenty of reason to believe Earl’s ready to deliver the goods come dawn.

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