I love a nice short album, and I Don’t Like Shit is exactly that. Ten tracks, thirty minutes in total. Tight. It’s enough to suck you into Earl’s studio and arrest you in your own thoughts, finishing before you realise exactly what happened.
I don’t want this review to read as a piece on my attention span, but when an album is compact like this, it figures that less songs that can be bad, but also less songs can be good. Luckily all Earl’s songs here are great, and the album isn’t so compact that it leaves me wanting more (but if you do, check out the ten-minute follow-up, ‘Solace’).
Earl’s got some real shit on his mind that he needs to talk about, and some dark production skills that turn I Don’t Like Shit into a truly vibey, late-night album. The samples are roughly cut and the drums are decidedly slow, but it’s comforting and meditative. Earl’s vocals have space to move, and with a considered but candid demeanor he negotiates topics like adulthood and fame and family and friendship.
You get the sense Earl created the album mostly alone, bringing in a few friends to drop a verse and hang out. Even if he doesn’t fully believe in them (“Never trust these hoes, can’t even trust my friends” in ‘Grown Ups’) no one betrays him with a sub-par performance. Na’kel contributes an especially moving verse in ‘DNA’, delivering his raps with a wavering uncertainty not unlike Earl in the first verse. His pauses and inconsistent volume capture an imperfect but sincere naturalness in the studio, ostensibly his first reaction to the death of a friend.
Sure, I Don’t Like Shit isn’t jam-packed with raps, but it doesn’t need to be, because Earl says what he needs to say in the verses he does spit. He throws in offhand comments, sometimes jokingly (Earl slips in a Jay Z “You crazy for this one” in ‘Inside’), only building the intimacy with the bars that follow (“Sipping til I melt / Never trying me, I’m diving, falling victim to myself” – on ‘Inside’).
I Don’t Like Shit is introspection done right. It’s a collection of thoughts presented as they came to Earl in the studio, thoughts that aren’t necessarily fully constructed but genuine thoughts all the same. ‘DNA,’ ‘Huey,’ ‘Mantra,’ and ‘AM // Radio’ all include lingering instrumentals to incredible effect, giving you time to take on you grievances. As Earl asserts in ‘Inside,’ “Middle finger to the help / When it’s problems I don’t holler, rather fix them all myself.” Rather than demanding your attention, he’s encouraging you to start thinking about yourself.