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Earl Sweatshirt At Best Buy, Saturday, August 22nd. 2015. Reviewed

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When last heard from, Earl Sweatshirt was punching a stage invader in the face in the wilds of Australia,  where friend and fellow Odd Future member Tyler The Creator had just been labelled non persona gratis. Earl would later explain the fight on twitter: “I’m not a tough guy!! I don’t like my personal space breached just like you. just respect niggas out here man not just me respect everybody.”

Before that he was cancelling a tour this Spring and before that a tour last summer, both due to physical and mental exhaustion.

And before that, I myself caught Earl Sweatshirt at Governors Ball, joined by Tyler, for an invigorating dark to light in the light of day set.

Fast forward to last night at a sold out Best Buy Theatre,  and no Tyler or Vince Staples in sight, but Earl Sweatshirt, who has come a long long way from his horrorcore mixtape Earl at the age of 17, took the stage for as low key a rap show as I’ve ever seen. With just a DJ and a wingman, Earl was an intense figure, a thin, bucktoothed, afro in waiting,  22 year old, spitting out intensely personal raps which occasionally morph into anthems:

“See that nigga?
For the time being, I’m a be that nigga
Believe that nigga, you see that nigga?
For the time being I’m a be that nigga
Believe that, nigga”

That’s off “Burgundy” and man did the young white kids at the front of the stage sing along to that no “n word” for them they got all of it,  though not as loudly as “Gonna fuck the freckles off your face, bitch” which was about was as loud as the proceedings got. For a little under 50 minutes, before ending the proceedings with a precise lie. “that’s all of my songs”, and letting his DJ, who’d bored us stupid with 2015’s dubstep, trap between sets, take us out. Earl had ruled the evening the way he chose to.

90 minutes earlier, NxWorries kickstarted the evening and hard. You don’t know em? This soulful rap duo is Anderson.Paak & Knxwledge, Paak has a great voice and sang a capella for a coupla bars that brought the house down. Only their second show, and a month after Paak went onto Compton a nobody and came out a superstar, the duo rode out growing pains to steal the evening with the neo-soul-classic soul “Suede”. “This is only our second show and you are already the best crowd”, Paak cracked.  These guys will break very big very soon. Don’t believe me? Check out the video below.

Certainly, better than Remy Banks, though the Queens rapper is no slouch, and, bringing Earl on stage to wave after the audience asked for him was funny  and his entire World’s Fair crew on stage, I’m surprised they didn’t call themselves Shea Stadium, was the most purely fun moment of the evening. But the fans weren’t buying it, and while I’ve enjoyed what I’ve heard, I haven’t heard the mixtape and that didn’t help.

Earl himself gave a centered, unflashy performance, hard dark beats rapped over with only the occasional sample, he goes to that special place where syllogism, solipsism,  and empathy meet and where misogyny and misanthropy give way to a deep and strange vision of life. Wordy and flowing, but tight in itself and subdued, there were no shoutouts to New York Boroughs, no call and response, no kowtowing. Just plain but excellent raps. Born Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, Earl’s father is South Africa’s poet laureate Keorapetse William Kgositsile, his mother, Cheryl Harris, a law professor at UCLA, and when Odd Future first blew up nobody knew where Earl was. Actually, he was at a boarding school for boys at risk in Samoa. I was at his grand return gig, and from the get go he was special. The guy can really write, he can really rhyme:

“I spent the day drinking and missing my grandmother
Just grab a glass and pour up some cold white wine
And a Colt 45 in it, you know how I get it
I’m toasted myself and a toast to all my niggas
And there ain’t no time limit, I’m toasted as hell
And I gotta jot it quick cause I can’t focus so well.”

The evening could have done with Tyler for sure,but Earl was still a lesson in dark minimalism, come in if you want. With one of the best albums of the year, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, already here, this was a good not great set and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

Grade: B+

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