There’s a new Earl Sweatshirt song out there in the wild called “Nowhere2Go,” but first I’d like to talk about an older one, “Hat Trick / Human Error.”
He debuted that song at the Movement Festival in Detroit in May 2017. Over a looped soul sample handpicked by RandomBlackDude (Sweatshirt’s producer alter ego), he attempts to cut through the fog of life: habits he’s formed, people he should stop listening to, the friction between pragmatism and happiness, the distance between understanding a problem and solving it. His voice is husky with earned wisdom, rapping tightly about gentrifiers and Greyhound tickets. About a minute and a half in, a playback error derails the whole thing. “Make some noise for human error,” he jokes—that’s the funny part. “Earth is my turf but the hearse like a magnet”—that’s the chilling part.
It had been two years since his frighteningly morbid (and excellent) sophomore album, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. Like a few scattered singles since, “Hat Trick / Human Error”—especially because he said “I’ll be outside” on it—was surely proof positive that new music was on the way.
So now, 18 months later: new music. Ever since his 2013 debut, Doris, turned out to be the angsty, muted masterpiece promised since he’d been a stringy tween rapping about Asher Roth eating applesauce, it seemed as if Earl might be happier if he could just opt out. Of expectation, of responsibility, of the mundanities of daily life, of the more incessant parts of the notoriety that comes along with being an internet rap darling. On Thursday, he tweeted his excitement over the new single in all caps, but speaking to Zane Lowe, Earl expressed anxiety over releasing new music, when real life is so noisy. “I think that putting in a conscious effort toward completing thoughts is highly important right now,” he said.
A lot has happened in Earl’s life since he last released music; his father passed away in January, his friend Mac Miller in September. “Nowhere2Go,” produced by Booliemane and Adé Hakim, churns along with the patient, sooty pensiveness that has defined a lot of Sweatshirt’s work since he developed an affinity for Ka and Roc Marciano. On it, Earl raps a single meditative verse about where he’s been (“with Mike and Med”) and where he is now (“in L.A. with Glen”).
It’s a short note that hints at a full album to come—“I’m not a single-ass nigga,” he told Lowe—and I’ve been listening to it on repeat. It’s odd, off-kilter, and fuzzy, like life can be in its hitchier moments, when the only way out is through. It’s also oddly encouraging, a two-minute refusal to blink in the face of dysfunction. “Every nigga that, uh,” he says, searchingly, on the intro before spitting another one of those lines that makes it seem as if he’s already lived several lifetimes. “Every nigga that’s tripping around me serve as reminder I gotta watch my step.” Earl Sweatshirt is back, even if he does feel weird about it.