Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Earl Sweatshirt – SICK!

 A dormant Earl returns to the rap scene with new life stories to tell

Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, also known as Earl Sweatshirt, has finally dropped his new album, SICK! While only clocking in at about 24 minutes, the MC makes up for short tracks with abstract yet packed bars and verses. Listeners will surely be revisiting for hours to catch all the little details in his storytelling.

SICK! treads similar ground of abstract hip hop and jazz rap of Earl`s back catalogue. Past albums have dealt with Earl’s grief from the loss of a loved one and tackling substance abuse. However, on this project it’s clear that the rapper has grown from these traumatic events, even if he hasn’t recovered from them completely. He seems to have grown within his own frame of mind. 

As an album, SICK! is front-loaded and less thematic than his earlier album, Some Rap Songs. This album does not feel like a complete canvas where all the parts fit together; instead, it feels like many different ideas packed with mixed results. 

The record also has more collaborations than past albums. Zelooperz and Armand Hammer both make appearances, and the production is handled most notably by The Alchemist and Navy Blue, the latter of which having also worked on Some Rap Songs.

The best songs sample beautiful piano arrangements, ‘70s afro beats and jazz. “Tabula Rasa” is a notable example of this sampling with its hypnotic piano melody. It features the group Armand Hammer and is my favorite track on the record. The duo is composed of rappers Billy Woods and Elucid. Woods in particular has been an inspiration to Earl`s music.

The opening track “Old Friend” kicks off with a synth beat. Earl’s rapping is in top form and less dejected than his performance on Some Rap Songs.The track references the feeling of cabin fever given the state of the world with COVID and Earl using drugs as an escape from the pandemic

“Fever in the cabin

I knew where we was headed (…)

Blinkin’ for some feasible mеthods to free yourself

Split it with my hand like cigarill’s

Slick oil in a fish’ gill”

SICK! also treads on themes of the past, such as the song “2010.” It’s clear Earl still finds himself living in the shadow of his early persona and rap career in Odd Future, where he, Tyler, The Creator and Frank Ocean made their names. The passing of his father also dwells on his mind, while some songs dive into the issues of systemic racism and police brutality. These themes are quite far from Earl’s edgy persona from his early career — he seems more mature and politically conscious nowadays. A lot of tracks in the album reference class struggle and current economic issues such as the housing crisis in L.A. and income inequality on the Track “Vision”:

“Singular current event, everything we in the midst of

How long you waiving the rent? 

Moratorium extendo, I’m just evading the pit

Ain’t no parade in the tent”

On the title track for example, Earl references the song “Expensive Shit” by Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer and ’70s political activist Fela Kuti. As the track ends, the beat transitions to a clip of Kuti speaking about his views on music. Earl links his passion and current view on his music to this quote. Through the words of Kuti, music is an act of resistance and a political tool for the masses via revolution.

Tracks such as “Lye” also quote directly from Malcom X, illustrating Earl’s more radical shift in his world view and politics. One quote is directly taken from The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The weaker songs tend to be the more trap-influenced beats like the title track and “Titanic.” They stick out a bit as a sore thumb when mixed with the moodier jazz rap and afrobeat compositions on the project. They are also some of the shortest tracks on the record, barely stretching past the one minute mark. On a 24-minute album, it also seems odd to include an interlude track like “Lobby (Int).”

Overall, while not as thematic and well rounded as Some Rap Songs, SICK! is a decent package that has some of Earl’s more thoughtful rapping. It’s a tad short and not all the tracks carry the same weight as others, but the project is worth it on its lyricism alone. 


Score: 7/10

Trial track: “Tabula Rasa”

[spotifyplaybutton play=”″]

Where halal meets fast food franchising

Chadi Sreis and his franchise B12 Burger are making an impact in the Montreal food industry


Danial Farshchi and his friends enter a small burger shop in Laval. Inside they are graced by one room with a few tables and a counter to order food. From the back, they can see freshly cooked burger patties being flipped in the kitchen. When asked what to order, the group scours the menu available — the selection contains a wide array of halal angus burgers, subway sandwiches, fried chicken, and hotdogs. The young man decides to try the special B12 burger trio served with fries and chips. When he gets his order, he opens the box and is faced with a juicy halal burger. The enormous patty, practically the size of his own head, is covered in a huge load of cheese sauce, and stuffed with onion rings, bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes.

B12 Burger was once a small mom-and-pop shop in Laval. It is one of the few local fast food restaurants that provided an option for halal burgers for Muslim Quebecers like Danial Farshchi.

“There are not many trusted fast food chains that are 100 per cent halal. A lot of places will say they’re legit, but there’s no proof, there’s no nothing,” he said.

One of the main competitors to the B12 franchise is Bergham, which serves halal subway sandwiches. Customers like Danial Farshchi believe their food is good, but the quality of service does not meet the same level as B12.

In 2018, the business caught the eye of entrepreneur Chadi Sreis. He is one of the owners of the Lebanese fast food franchise Boustan. Sreis is a respected businessman  who deals with an intense time schedule — our brief conversation was held on the phone while he was in his car. He was excited to discuss B12 and its origins while also bouncing in and out of other work situations that came up during our conversation over the phone.

“I tried out the burgers there and really liked it,” he said. “Initially we [Sreis and his business partners] were looking at all kinds of brands and this is one that we really liked. We believed in it and took it to the next level.” Three restaurants are now open in Laval, Kirkland, and Acadie Boulevard. “After acquiring the first shop, we had to go to the banks to loan us the money to set up our own burger restaurants.”

The growing franchise remains successful despite the pandemic.

“Our revenues went up because the big strip malls were closing, so all these small, quick service restaurants did fairly better in the pandemic,” he said. “The rent is lower, the space is lower, and the bills are generally lower.”

B12 made a yearly volume upwards of $1 million in 2020 according to Sreis. The store set up in Kirkland continues to have around 75 to 150 customers daily with an average customer spending around $18 to $20 on an order. “During the pandemic, the sit down [area] was closed, so our menu was strictly available to people who wanted to pick up and go, or delivery through third parties.” Expenses for the company increased with delivery services such as Uber Eats and DoorDash charging over 30 per cent on orders. Mr. Sreis asserted that the volume of sales during the pandemic balanced out the extra expense of third party partners without debt accumulation. “It wasn’t really that bad. Don’t forget we didn’t really need people to serve in the restaurant, and stuff like that. All you needed is people to cook.”

Going forward, Chadi Sreis has big plans for the B12 franchise. “Right now, our main focus is to expand the business. Montreal is still a virgin market for us, and we only have three stores.” The goal is to have 20 to 25 more locations on the island of Montreal in the next two to three years.

“There is a big demand on the product because it’s part of a niche market,” he added.

There are some things Danial thinks the franchise could improve upon. The locations are small and do not make for comfortable dine-in experiences. “When I go there with my friends… I can’t tell you how many times we sat on the curb outside the parking lot just because there’s no space in the seating inside!” he said. Another issue he has with the business is the food packaging. Often when he orders from them through Uber Eats, the food is delivered soggy and cold. He also wishes that the burger could be served better while also keeping its humongous size. “For the love of God, why can’t they cut the burger in half? When I pick it up it’s so messy and I have to make sure the burger doesn’t drop out of the buns.”

Graphics Courtesy of James Fay


Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: By the Time I Get to Phoenix – Injury Reserve

Injury Reserve’s latest album is all over the place, but it’s beautiful

Injury Reserve is a hip hop group known for their jazz rap mixtapes, their self-titled debut album Injury Reserve from 2019, and their quirky sense of humour. However, they’ve been through a lot as a band in the short span of just two years. The pandemic, personal turmoil, and the political uproar that occurred in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020 pushed the trio to move away from their already defined sound, and work on a project darker in tone.

While it was supposed to drop in 2020, the tragic passing of core member Stepa J. Groggs put the album on hold and the future of the band still remains uncertain. It was only this past August that the remaining members quietly dropped a new single and announced that the album would release on Sept. 15. Since its release, I’ve listened to this album five times and have processed my thoughts about it. One thing is certain: if this ends up being Injury Reserve’s final record, then I can rest easy knowing they put out one of the best albums of this year.  

By the Time I Get to Phoenix is quite haunting in its presentation. The album is defined by its  lo-fi distorted sampling paired with abstract lyrics that are almost incoherent at times. It gives the album a raw, visceral, and manic sound. Tracks like the opener, “Outside,” are filled with odd panting and words being repeated frantically by lead rapper Ritchie with a T. The song amounts to almost lyrical gibberish accompanied by a busted chiptune sample looping in different variations.

Another incredible track, “Superman That,” is one of the highlights on the album and is all over the place in terms of structure. It’s a weird blend of EDM, autotune, and rap, and it’s hard to even describe what kind of genre it is. It’s explosive, lyrically depressing, and creates a sense of anxiety.

At times, the abstract nature of the album gives off the feeling that certain songs are incomplete demo tapes or lost recordings that weren’t meant to be heard. While I had issues with a few tracks sounding similar, I think the often barebone elements of the record’s production are necessary to its overall themes, even if it makes the project hard to listen to casually. Parts of the album can say a lot without saying anything at all, and “Wild Wild West” is one of the best examples. The song delves completely into the rise of conspiracy theories: Ritchie impersonates a conspiracy theorist and rambles on about 5G towers being set up everywhere by the “Inspector Gadget.” 

The late Groggs has some incredible vocal performances on the album. His screeching on “Footwork in a Forest Fire” brings a lot of heat and energy, and “Knees” is one of Groggs’ most vulnerable performances and takes a hard look at his mental state before his passing:

I should probably take this booze off my rider

Okay, this last one is my last one, shit

Probably said that about the last one

Probably gon’ say it about the next two

Well fuck it n****, at least my dreads grew

This dark and emotional moment perfectly characterizes the album. The song’s depressive themes of falling back into bad habits such as alcoholism, feeling stuck in a place and unable to grow as a person, make it a hard song to process.

Ritchie also provides some of his best material on the album with “Top Picks for You.” Through spoken word, Ritchie delves into grief and attempts to move on. It is the most straightforward song on the album in a sea of abstractness. He delves into how despite the fact that the people he’s lost are no longer physically present, bits and pieces of themselves that they left behind are a constant reminder that they once existed. For example, even with the passing of the person he grieves, algorithms on subscription services they shared such as Netflix still recommend shows that this person watched, but never finished. The system is asking the user if they want to “jump back in”:

Grab the remote, pops up something you would’ve watched, I’m like “Classic”

This some shit I would’a seen you watch and then just laughed at

Your patterns are still in place and your algorithm is still in action

Just workin’ so that you can just, jump right back in

But you ain’t jumpin’ back

While the album can be difficult to digest given its themes, abstractness, and eerie production, the overall listening experience is probably one of the best I’ve had this year. I find myself diving into this album often to help absorb the impact of these dark times.


Trial Track: Superman That


Exit mobile version