Despite the accolades given to Earl Sweatshirt—from his Odd Future breakthrough to his chart-topping studio debut album “Doris”—the rapper says his new record is the first thing he can fully stand behind.
Released in March, “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside” is an introspective and often dark album, with Sweatshirt’s fluid lyrics centering on questions of identity, maturity, and communication, or the lack thereof, in human relationships.
“It’s just fully real,” Sweatshirt says. “I can point to every statement on that album and I have a picture for it, something that made me say that. It’s more like a reporter’s role.”
And while the title, which Sweatshirt came up with as he started work on the album, points at some of the struggles he’s experienced in the last couple years, it isn’t the full summary of the 10 new songs that form one of the most talked-about hip-hop albums of 2015.
“It was kind of a sarcastic play on where I was at a point in time and over time it became less sarcastic because it became real,” he says. “If you go literally by the title, it’s shortchanging the body of work because it goes a lot of different places in the human mind and the human set of emotions. It captures a lot and goes every where I can go.”
The 21-year-old Sweatshirt (born Thebe Neruda Kgositsile) never strayed from stark honesty while writing for the album, resulting in a true-to-life, deeply personal song cycle. With one exception, Sweatshirt produced the tracks himself (under the name randomblackdude), with impressive versatility and variety.
“Maintaining honesty throughout keeps a certain feeling no matter where the music goes color wise,” he says.
Songs like “Grief” (the album’s first single, with its stark, ghostly thermal-imaged video) and “Faucet” came about later on in the recording process, after the lengthy tours had taken their toll on Sweatshirt’s health.
“A lot of the darker shit came from when I didn’t have any energy. I was just fatigued from traveling. I couldn’t do shit but sleep,” he says. “You can hear it in the severity of my voice.”
In a way, an album like “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside” was inevitable for Sweatshirt, whose introspective tendencies appeared long before he began recording his rhymes.
“It’s not something that I do by choice. It’s like a gift and a curse,” he says. “It’s something that I go through every day. I like to keep a steady level of introspection outside of music because it helps you keep aware of yourself.”
Rested, healthier and wiser to the pitfalls of touring after 2013 “Doris,” which reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Rap Albums and R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts, Sweatshirt is back out on the road, with a stop at the Rialto Theatre as part of a tour that runs through September, spanning the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Dubbed the “Not Redy 2 Leave Tour,” it features Sweatshirt, Vince Staples (who guests on “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside”) and Remy Banks.
“I’m coming out there to show everybody what we got,” he says.
Earl Sweatshirt performs Tuesday, May 19 at the Rialto Theatre. Doors open at 7 p.m. and showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $23 in advance and $25 day of show.