by Andrew Goldberg
There aren’t many artists whose presence in the city is palpable on the day they’re in town. Few can elicit such a powerful feeling of anticipation, and those who do barely even touch Boston on their tour routes. On the second day of April, upon entrance at Paradise Rock Club, anyone could infer their attendance would be for something much much more than a simple concert, but a masterclass in performance and timelessness.
Earl Sweatshirt at Paradise Rock Club. Photo by Chris Triunfo for WRBB.
Coming off one of 2018’s best received and critically reviewed releases, Some Rap Songs, Los Angeles rapper and producer Earl Sweatshirt brought his “FIRE IT UP!” tour through a lulled Tuesday night, capping the room and demanding the eyes and ears of a surprisingly age-diverse crowd. After the drawn out and artificially hyped set from Chattanooga-based MC BbyMutha, Earl quietly took the stage, greeted by a raise of house lights to reveal the overly enthusiastic room.
Basking in the warm welcome, Earl surveyed the expanse of the stage as colorful visuals played on the projector behind him. He spoke to his excitement, reckoning with the front row before diving into cuts from his debut, Doris. The immediacy of his catalog’s personal connections with each listener was clear, as many walked through each line of the earlier releases with Earl. The rapper spent his time slowly pacing from side to side, allowing crisp and concise delivery of his trademark snarky lyricism. Each track went relatively unabated until Earl picked out a kid from the crowd who he mentioned as being particularly amusing, warping his involvement into an unexpected, yet warming motif of fan engagement.
As the Soul Superiors sample for “Ontheway!” hit, the set had reached full stride. Some Rap Songs cuts like “Mint Green” and “Azucar” allowed Earl to showcase that the dynamic and innovative qualities of his studio production translate into texturally rich and intense live renditions. Just as with headphones, the listener is thrown full-force into Earl’s unique and authoritative sonic palette, sweeping you up with rhythmic chops and cuts as he delivers nonchalant wisdom.
The entire tour carried a new, fresh energy for the rapper, usurping his alias in favor of his full name, Thebe Kgositsile, to present the experience and live collaborators in a more controlled and representative way. More and more has ‘Earl Sweatshirt’ become project-based, where the creative’s identity behind has stretched and grown. With increasing authenticity in musical direction and an “incel community” base to reject from previous involvements, the course is set for Earl to take action.