After three years spent out of the spotlight and fostering new creative alliances, Earl Sweatshirt has returned with the music he was always meant to make. It furthers his progress from foul-mouthed prodigy to steady and confident auteur, a journey he began with the fittingly insular I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. The loss of his father in January of this year—shortly before they planned to reunite and have a “long-anticipated conversation”—has added a sense of gravity to his work. “Not getting to have that moment left me to figure out a lot with my damn self,” Earl said in a press release.
“The Mint,” the latest single from his third record Some Rap Songs, offers an experienced perspective of life, love, and death. Featuring ambling, understated production by Black Noi$e and a verse from New York rapper Navy Blue, “The Mint” contains ups and downs and observational asides. It is descriptive, not prescriptive—and it’s only obliquely about Earl. One moment Earl shouts his friend, Bronx rapper MIKE; the next he is decrying gentrification (“Crackers pilin’ in to rape the land”) and spitting the funniest and most concise summary of hip-hop I’ve ever heard: “Say I’m ballin’ out the hourglass/Grand total, it’s a whole lotta raps.” It’s the sort of reflection that can be achieved, it seems, only after realizing that tragedy is indifferent to your creative achievements. He’s not necessarily figured out himself, but on “The Mint,” Earl Sweatshirt takes in the world around him to find that it’s your surroundings that matter most.