Where’s Earl Sweatshirt? Arguably the best rapper in Odd Future, he has been absent essentially since most people began paying attention. It was the combination horror movie puke video and lyrics of his song and video for “Earl” that first drew many people to Odd Future, Earl’s casual nastiness. Slip capsules in a glass, you dizzee rascal/ Party staff baffled, asking where her ass go/ In my room, redefining the meaning of black holes/ Go on, suck it up, but hurry, I got nuts to bust/ And butts to fuck and ups to chuck and sluts to fucking uppercut/ It’s OF buttercup, go ahead, fuck with us/ Without a doubt, a surefire way to get your mother fucked/ Ask her for a couple bucks, shove a trumpet up her butt. He is pretty gross, funny, quick, nimble and looks like he is 11. Really, he was 16 or so, baby face unfaded because basically he’s a baby. And if he’s that good when he’s 16, think of how good he’ll be when he’s 18 or 20 or 22. All those years ahead of him and still he’ll be a brand new adult. But who knows if we’ll ever get to hear or see anything new from Earl because, as Tyler the Creator and the rest of Odd Future have put it, he’s “gone.”
The most morbid thought about Earl is that he is dead. “Gone” is a dramatic word fit for a Western, at worst his vanishing conjures images of forced disappearance. But death is something that can come out in the open. Were Earl dead, the rest of Odd Future might mourn more openly. Plus, it would suck if Earl is dead, so let’s set that aside as a non-possibility.
We’ve heard rumors of boot camp and private schools, juvenile delinquency programs, things resembling hell for bad kids. This seems plausible, though the blackout from his end, regardless of how deep he’s buried, also seems unlikely. This is the age of satellite phones and Jeopardy robots. At the very least, can’t he send a letter to Tyler to post on Golf Wang? Surely friendship and postage haven’t been banned. But he is a teenager and it is certainly possible he has been heavily banished by displeased parents, fiendish international attention no match for a Tiger Mom.
Earl’s counterpart in Odd Future, Tyler, the Creator, recently signed a one album deal with XL Records, home to the aforementioned, word-played Dizzee Rascal, MIA, Adele, The XX, Vampire Weekend and a whole host of very popular, atypically well-selling artists. MellowHype, duo of Hodgy Beats and Left Brain, signed to Fat Possum, home of The Walkmen and Wavves. They were on television, on Funny or Die. Kanye shouted them out. This is real. Separate from business booming, however, Earl hasn’t made any new raps in a long time. He is too young to be JD Salinger and retreat to the woods. Even Salinger, ultimate recluse, left more than some short stories. From Earl we’ve got an EP, some guest appearances and a bunch of YouTubes and photos with a newly earned sad patina. And, sure, there are other rappers in the world, just like there were other authors. But Holden Caulfield changed a bunch of kids lives, continues to, and “Earl” can and will do the same. Why stop now?
Recently, after 37 years, the Village Voice laid off professional muckraker/investigative journalist Wayne Barrett. He’s working with The Nation now, supposedly, but maybe he’s got some free time and needs a project: Freeing Earl Sweatshirt. And if not him, surely some enterprising LA Times intern who is bored of surfing Tumblr wants to stretch his shoe-leather. But if no one takes it upon themselves to free Earl, what will soon is legal age, when Earl the 18-year-old, if he’s indeed on ambiguous lock down, becomes old enough to free himself. But who wants to wait that long?