SICK! Album Review 

Earl Sweatshirt in front of his album cover. SICK! Is Earl Sweatshirt’s sixth album, which was released on January 14 of 2022. Illustration by Pearl McNames, edited by Lucas Lash.

Earl Sweatshirt’s sixth album, SICK! dropped on January 14, 2022, and in my opinion it’s probably his second best album. SICK! has a total of ten songs including two features from rapper Zelooperz on “Vision” and hip-hop duo Armand Hammer on “Tabula Rasa.” 

“Old Friend” opens with a dark low-pass filter (an effect used to remove frequencies from around 200hz -2000hz and is being automated to fade in the song), string instruments, and a saw and square wave arp which gives the intro an open vibe. Sweatshirt’s vocals come in slightly offbeat; it gives off an old rap vibe and puts chills down my spine. He’s rapping a story about someone he’s known for a long time and the experiences he had with them, like their trouble with the law. With the line, “My brother’ brain that we couldn’t shield,” he’s showing us the dark experiences that he’s had in this life with this person, yet he ends the song off with “I’m glad we’re still friends” showing that even through it all, they still care for each other. This song for me was really good; I wouldn’t listen to it normally, purely because it’s an intro and is a little hard to follow along with, but I would rate it a 6/10.

“2010” goes straight into it, starting with a dreamy arpeggio (arp),  bright drums, and Sweatshirt rapping about money and attempting to become a millionaire. This song doesn’t have a lot of interest purely because it’s the same thing throughout with the lyrics talking about random experiences or things that’ve happened to him or what he’s done. I didn’t really like this track; it was boring and didn’t hook me or immerse me in the song. I would rate this a 4/10.

“Sick!” opens with some random sample from a movie or tv show, lo-fi mixed piano, and rough rapping. Again this track isn’t about anything specific, but the outro ends with an interesting clip from an interview with Fela Kuti talking about how music is a way to push people and help people strive. Even though this song wasn’t about anything specific, I really loved the way his voice sounded on this track and the lo-fi mono mix and master brought it to another level. I also really loved the way he transitioned into the outro clip. I would rate this song a 7.5/10. 

“Vision” (feat. Zelooperz) opens up with incoherent sounds and samples and with an interesting clip talking about magic. During this you slowly hear the beat come in with an automated low-pass filter with a dreamy piano arp and a heavy hitting 808 (a form of bass) but with lofi style drums with vintage static in the background. All of the sudden it hits with Sweatshirt’s vocals talking about his dreams for himself, his family, and how to secure his future. Zelooperz’s part is mostly about the same thing but with more of a dark undertone talking more about his struggles and what he’s been through. The song ends with people talking about why you shouldn’t focus on the make-believe (magic) and how you should tell your kids to be proud of who and what they are. I absolutely love this song. The beat is on another level, and the piano arp gave me chills. I love the way Sweatshirt sounds here and the message at the end is truly heartwarming. I would rate this song a 9.5/10; the only thing keeping me from a 10/10 is that the mixing on Zelooperz’s vocals are kind of weird and have too many resonant frequencies. 

“Tabula Rasa” (feat. Armand Hammer) is a very lyrical track layered over a repeating soul style sample with very chill chords and a repeating hi-hat cymbal in the background. This song has an old school rap feel to it like a few other songs off this album, and even though it was really repetitive I still kind of liked it. Armand Hammer’s part got boring after a while, but Sweatshirt brought it back and made the song feel refreshing again. Overall this song was a little too repetitive, so I would definitely rate this one a 5/10.

“Lye” starts off with these bright horns and lofi vintage sounds, classic to the Earl Sweatshirt style, which, combined with his rough non-melodious voice, works with the horns so well. I don’t have a lot to say about this song because it’s short and simple. I like it but I feel like it could have been a lot better, and he could have taken advantage of the horn sample he used a lot more. I feel like the song could have used a bit more variation because I lost interest about half way through. I would rate this one a 6 or 7/10.

“Lobby(int)” just gets right into it with harsh sound chords and a booming 808 keeping a lofi tone again. His vocals keep the same tone as the last track, but it doesn’t work as well. This song is quite short and feels like a filler and I honestly didn’t like it at all. Like I mentioned, his vocals sound like they don’t fit, which would be true for anyone because the beat is garbage and it feels really low effort. I would rate this one a 2/10.

“God Laughs” starts off with a really mysterious tone and vocal chops, giving a chilling feel to the song but then vocals come in and make everything feel off. I feel like this song has a lot of potential, and I don’t know if he mixed the vocals like it was made with an iPhone speaker underwater on purpose, but it ruined the song. I wish he hadn’t done this because the sound could have been really good. I’m gonna rate this one a 3/10.

“Titanic” starts with some goofy sounding samples and drums, but pulls it out of the gutter with good vocals and an 808. Again this song wasn’t about anything specific but I liked it. I really thought it was gonna be terrible for the first few seconds but I ended up really liking how the beat sounds in this track. I’m gonna rate this one a 7/10.

“Fire in the Hole” is the final track on the album and begins with a quick fade in through the use of a low-pass filter when Sweatshirt’s rough dry vocals come in. The vocals speak of the trials and tribulations of Sweatshirt’s life, and the guitar sample really fits this. The drums on this track are amazing and everything honestly works really well. The second half of the song has no vocals and is just the sample and a piano that I absolutely adore; it gave me goosebumps. This song really hit a spot for me despite being a little too long and and could have ended 30 seconds earlier than it did but honestly I kind of like the way it’s used as an outro for the album. I’m gonna give this one a 9/10.

Overall this album wasn’t crazy good; it had some good songs but there were a few that I didn’t like. I feel like Sweatshirt’s style on this album was really earthy and raw and had a really lofi or old style to it like a lot of Sweatshirts’s songs. “Vision” was definitely the best song and I immediately put it on my playlist when I heard the first 15 seconds of it. I’m gonna have to give this album a 7/10.

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