As suddenly as Thebe Kgositsile became the rapper known as Earl Sweatshirt, his legend was cemented in rap history as a 16-year-old prodigy with untapped potential within the infamous Odd Future collective. When his mother sent him off to boarding school in Samoa until the age of 18, his legend only grew as fans of all ages eagerly awaited his return.
On Thursday night, he made one of many returns to Sacramento’s Ace of Spades before a sold-out crowd that felt just as eager now as the culture seemed to be in 2013 when his debut studio album, ‘Doris,’ was released. In support of ‘Some Rap Songs,’ his fourth and latest studio album, “FIRE IT UP! A tour starring Earl Sweatshirt & Friends,” is a gritty showcase of the rapper’s ascension in the public spotlight.
For an artist who has been through plenty of turmoil in his personal life, such as losing his father Keorapetse Kgositsile last year, there is a genuine joy in watching Earl bask in the moments he shares with his friends on stage. One could wonder whether the show’s production is contrived or an organic projection of Earl’s battle between rap star and hip-hop aficionado, but those who understand Earl’s disdain for the limelight nod toward the latter.
“Nomadic, chrome-grabbing when it’s danger/I’m a manger-born puppy, holding flight like a hangar do,” he raps during his song “Molasses,” which is virtually rapped back to him word-for-word by everyone inside Ace of Spades–a testament to the resonating complexities within his stories.
Earl’s songs sway between abstract similes and real life situations that gain lyrical traction between his projects, which have him rapping at his most concise on his latest album. Despite the moments his voice gets lost within the venue’s sound system, the audience keeps the stories alive like they were affected by the same struggles.
The show is essentially a cathartic form of group therapy, where 25-year-old Earl Sweatshirt revisits a younger version of himself for the sake of everyone’s progress. As one of the rare artists that was literally hand-picked by a generation to alter the rap game, Earl continues to live up to his promising career without doing much more than rapping his ass off.
“I only get better with time/That’s what my mom say,” he raps in the song “Azucar,” and mother certainly knows best.
For more information on Earl Sweatshirt and the “FIRE IT UP! A tour starring Earl Sweatshirt & Friends Tour,” visit EarlSweatshirt.com.