Action Bronson and Earl Sweatshirt at MTELUS

MTELUS was packed for a hip hop rendez-vous

Rap fans of all ages gathered at MTELUS in Montreal last Wednesday, as a duo of lo-fi hip hop mastodons Action Bronson and Earl Sweatshirt were headlining their NBA Leather tour accompanied by Boldy James & The Alchemist as their opening act. Fans were waiting patiently for both Bronson and Earl to come out and perform.

The show started off with Californian producer, The Alchemist, coming on stage and warming up the crowd, playing some of his more popular beats. Detroit rapper and Boldy James joined The Alchemist to perform their opening set. James’ set was definitely entertaining, with him playing most of his classic songs, and at least half of his 2021 amazing collaboration album with The Alchemist Bo Jackson, but his performance didn’t do justice to the quality of his music. 

James’ music is more based on him spitting bars over a smoothly sampled instrumental. This style of rap is harder to decipher at a concert, resulting in the performance lacking a bit of energy, making it harder for people to connect with the music. Nonetheless, he still delivered a satisfactory performance and set the table well for the other artists yet to come.

The next artist to perform was Earl Sweatshirt, who delivered a solid performance, rapping most of his latest album SICK!, and some key songs off of his other records. The crowd lacked energy at the beginning of his set, but once he played his meme song “EAST,” they picked it up and started moshing. Earl was the chillest and most laidback guy ever. He had no difficulty showcasing his funny, nonchalant and sarcastic side we all came to know and love from his days as a part of Odd Future. Earl’s set was able to make people feel a plethora of different emotions. 

The last but not the least artist performing was New York MC Action Bronson, who delivered a super loud and “in your face” set. Contrarily to Boldy James, his music sounded even better live. He was super theatrical with his rapping and the fans were really engaged in his set. It was definitely surprising to not see him rap much of his new album Cocodrillo Turbo as he only performed a song or two off of it, regardless, it was still great to see him live.

Whether it was Boldy James’ gritty sound, Earl Sweatshirt’s more laidback and posed attitude, or Action Bronson’s aggressive and energetic performance, everyone brought something different to the table that saw fans feasting through it all.


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=”″]

Artist to watch in 2021: redveil

Redveil, a Twitter sensation in 2020, showed us exactly why he’s a star in the making.

At only 16 years old, Maryland rapper redveil is already showing glimpses of greatness by borrowing a lo-fi aesthetic, and improving with every single and project he puts out.

He stands out from all his peers with mature and introspective lyricism, a somber and depressing delivery while flowing over a lot of chopped up sample based beats with tons of layers. 

He has drawn plenty of comparisons with former Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt. Despite not being as dark, depressing and deep as Earl lyrically, they both rap with this monotonous and cold voice that makes you shiver to the depths of your being. Redveil also surfs over more laid back and moody instrumentals than Earl does.

His last project Niagara, released in 2020, received a lot of praise in the underground rap scene and helped put his name on the map. The first two songs on the album, “Campbell” and “Weight,” are close to having two million streams each. On Niagara, redveil is in a rather celebratory mood throughout much of the album affirming that he has made it. He also raps about his dreams, ambitions and money for another large portion of the record. He does it while producing the majority of the album, combining two sounds he is most comfortable with:  looped samples like on “Badnews” and “Grass,” the latter sampling “You Don’t Know My Name” by Alicia Keys, and the chill and lowkey trap-flavoured instrumentals as seen on “5500” and “Drown.”

One of his recent follow-up singles, “how 2 find hope,” released in December 2020, sees redveil in a rare form, unquestionably showcasing why he has so much hype around his name. He jumps on a beautiful sample combining looped horns, drums and vocals. He flows on the verses and sings on the chorus, aggravating a deep feeling of desperately searching for hope.

Fans should expect a project from the rapper in 2021 as he has dropped a project every year since he started in 2019.

At 16, redveil is young and has a lot of time to refine his sound and to experiment with it, but his talent is undeniable and he is certainly heading in the right direction. Be on the lookout for this rapper because he has the potential to be the next big thing in hip hop.




The former Odd Future member delves deeper into the abstract sounds explored on 2018’s Some Rap Songs

At this point in his career, Earl Sweatshirt has fully exceeded any expectations that were set during his early career with Odd Future. The 25-year-old rapper has been turning heads for nearly a decade, continually growing as a lyricist and an artist. With FEET OF CLAY, Earl continues to raise the bar, delivering his second masterful collection of abstract hip-hop tracks in under a year.

While sonically this isn’t too far from the raw, lo-fi sound of his fantastic 2018 LP Some Rap Songs, it still feels fresh. Most of the songs here barely eclipse the two-minute-mark, and don’t have a semblance of traditional song structure. In fact, most are just a single verse, with the occasional outro, feature or chorus throughout. Earl is marching to the beat of his own off-kilter drums and warped horn samples, creating a musical identity that is uniquely his.

Handling most of the album’s production, he has built the backdrop for what feels like the stream of consciousness of an emotionally wounded young man. Throughout the album he opens up about his alcoholism and his depression in the wake of losing his father and grandmother. This is a poetic portrait of grief wrapped in warm but ominous, distorted, sample-based instrumentals.

Serving as the perfect companion piece to Some Rap Songs, FEET OF CLAY showcases a man looking back and trying to come to terms with loss, heartbreak and addiction. Earl’s growth as both a man and an artist are apparent, and this is another great entry into his already phenomenal catalogue.


Trial Track: “MTOMB”

Star Bar:

“Sellin’ kids culture with death, circlin’ like carrion

The more the merrier, phone got you livin’ vicarious

Ice melting ‘cause it’s so hot

The veil lifts, the pain salient” (Earl Sweatshirt on “74”)


Upcoming albums of 2018

Some of the best records to look forward to in the new year

The famed Atlanta trap trio released the companion piece to last year’s smash-hit Cultureon Jan 26. Members Quavo and Offset stated last year that the album would be released in October 2017. Now that the album is out there, the shaky details are crystal clear. The album is a veritable who’s who of rap, including guest spots from Drake, Big Sean, Gucci Mane and 21 Savage. “MotorSport,” an October collaboration with Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, was included among the cuts on the album. Expectations are undoubtedly high, as a followup to the group’s platinum career-maker “Bad and Boujee” is what’s really on listeners’ radars.

Porches’s 2016 debut on Domino Records, Pool, mingled minimal synth beats with colourful production flourishes. Released on Jan. 19, Aaron Maine’s full-length, The House, features a plethora of gold-standard guests, including (Sandy) Alex G and Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes. In terms of the album’s sound, Maine told Pitchfork he wanted to capture the quality of a home-recorded demo. The record’s lead single, “Country,” is a true testament to this approach, gentle and drenched with reverb.

My Bloody Valentine
According to front man Kevin Shields, shoegaze pioneers My Bloody Valentine will release an album in 2018. “A hundred per cent,” Shields confirmed to Pitchfork last year. As both a followup to 2013’s mbv and a rare release from the group, the project will reportedly be “more all over the place” than its predecessor. According to Shields: “This one is like if somebody took that and dropped some acid on it or created a dimensional clash or something.” The band also released analog remasters of Loveless and Isn’t Anything on Jan. 18.

No Age
More than a decade ago, Randy Randall and Dean Spunt emerged from the grimy gutters of  Los Angeles’s DIY punk scene, releasing five EPs and two albums of noisy, hyperactive rock music. After regular stints at legendary DIY venue the Smell, they secured a record deal with Matador Records. This gave them the professional backing to hone their unique hybrid of nihilist punk energies and ambient noise across a decade-spanning career. On “Drippy” and “Soft Collar Fad,” the first two singles from their upcoming record on Drag City, the band sounds revitalized, tapping into vibes that made them a formidable force to begin with.

Sky Ferreira
Following a series of cryptic tweets and hushed word-of-mouth hype, Sky Ferreira’s followup to her excellent 2013 debut album, Night Time, My Time, has been in a stagnant state of production hell. The release has been delayed for several months to make room for Ferreira’s budding acting career. Her acclaim as a singer has been put on the backburner in exchange for film and TV roles, including appearances in Baby Driver and Twin Peaks: The Return. Though Ferreira opened up about the album’s progress, teasing in April that new music would be released “very soon,” this is one we’ll have to see to believe.

FKA twigs
In February 2016, still fresh off her 2014 debut masterwork, LP1, FKA twigs released “Good to Love,” a somber single that further expanded the reaches of the singer’s experimental sound. This year will see the release of the singer’s first set of material since 2015’s surprise-released EP, M3LL155X. Recently, she has teased “Trust in Me,” a new collaboration project with ambient producer Oneohtrix Point Never. With this release, the prospect of new material in 2018 isn’t too much of a stretch.

Frank Ocean
The reclusive Frank Ocean released a small number of singles in the middle of last year. And after vowing to release a followup to 2016’s Endless and Blonde, Ocean went to Tumblr to clear the air. In a post, he indicated he has two mixtapes in the vault that would count as his third and fourth full-length albums. “I JUST AIN’T PUT THAT BITCH OUT!” he posted in November.

Earl Sweatshirt
Earl Sweatshirt’s last album, the spacey I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, was the rapper’s last public release. Aside from sharing a guest verse with Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul on Danny Brown’s menacing “Really Doe,” Earl’s activities in and outside the music industry have been few and far between. He has also been performing a fair share of new songs live. The idea of a new LP could point toward a proper return for the Odd Future provocateur.

Exit mobile version