Thebe Kgositsile, known as Earl Sweatshirt, is about to set the Corona Theatre ablaze on Thursday. After having released one of 2018’s standout, original rap records, Some Rap Songs, Sweatshirt has embarked on a tour with a name as long as it is apt: “Thebe Kgositsile Presents: FIRE IT UP! A TOUR STARRING EARL SWEATSHIRT & FRIENDS FT. BBYMUTHA, NA-KEL SMITH, LIV.E, MIKE & BLACK NOI$E.” With the release of his newest album, Kgotsitsile notably distanced himself from the stage name that eponymized his extraordinary shock-rap come-up in 2010 with Odd Future. He views Earl Sweatshirt as a project or a persona that shifts and changes with his collaborators. On this tour, Kgositsile has collected not only his friends that helped Some Rap Songs to be the poetic, singular project that it was, but his associates that have helped shape his persona over the years.
Nobody on this bill can make a bigger claim to shaping Kgositsile’s current sound than MIKE. The New York rapper with flows wise beyond his years shares a lot of energy reminiscent of early Earl. At 20 years old, MIKE has headed sLUms, a New York-based crack squad of lo-fi literate rappers that have had the Kgositsile co-sign since near its inception. Kgositsile shouts out members from the group throughout Some Rap Songs, and their musical influence is undeniable. Kgositsile cites brevity as his tool for the raw humility that characterizes his latest album. MIKE and his crew are known to have little in the way of hooks and filler to spread their message thin. He developed his style in the image of Earl Sweatshirt; now Kgositsile has partnered with MIKE for what should be a rap masterclass.
Detroit-based producer Black Noi$e has previously toured with Kgositsile and represents another wave of upcoming artists defining their sound. Noi$e met Kgositsile through Queens-based collective World’s Fair, and hails from Detroit by way of Nova Scotia. Noi$e comes at hip hop from a hardcore background, and is sure to bring pure grit to the decks.
Liv.e clocks in at the opposite end of the spectrum. With a golden voice, she raps and sings over electronic-leaning R&B production that veers into experimental territory closer to MIKE’s.
Na-Kel Smith is a skater and designer that is known for his association with Odd Future, as well as his recent starring role in Jonah Hill’s film mid90s. On Earl Sweatshirt’s 2015 album I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside, Smith gave a gut-wrenchingly raw verse memorializing his friend. Smith got news of his death while he was on LSD at Kgositsile’s studio, then wrote and recorded the verse on the spot. It remains a defining moment of the Earl Sweatshirt discography. Smith dropped his debut album Twothousand Nakteen laced with the kind of trap-driven braggadocio that every good rap show needs as an opener.
Chattanooga, TN rapper bbymutha is another name sure to turn up the heat. The self-acclaimed “antichrist of female rap” has an over-the-top, oversexual, vibrant aesthetic that is as innovative as her sound is classically southern.
If it wasn’t apparent, this show isn’t one to miss. It is expected to be a showcase of a wave of massively creative underground artists under the image of Earl Sweatshirt. Even if Kgositsile is moving past the moniker to find himself, it served as a vehicle to unparalleled artistry that was able to take hits and make mistakes along the way. If Earl’s friends can follow in his footsteps, Corona is in for a treat.