Earl Sweatshirt emerged from his cave with the release of his new EP, “FEET OF CLAY” that dropped on November 1 of 2019. Sweatshirt’s last project, “Some Rap Songs” was only 25 minutes in length total, averaging out to each song only being about a minute and a half long. “Some Rap Songs” proved Sweatshirt notorious in optimizing time and being picky with what he chooses to say. It’s hard to believe that “FEET OF CLAY” is an even shorter body of work, with it only being a fifteen-minute EP – but Earl doesn’t waste a single second both sonically and lyrically.
Sweatshirt, who is known to be quite reclusive and ominous in terms of revealing his intentions behind his music – recently held a conversation at MOCA with his mother, Cheryl Harris. Cheryl Harris is a highly acclaimed law professor at UCLA. Earl revealed that he acquired the term, “Feet of Clay,” from his mother when he was complimenting her success and the fact that she is so valued within her field.
His mother said, “That was a conversation at the kitchen table, where a lot of them happen. I was saying to him, one of the things that I try and keep in my mind is that people who are elevated, given positions, admired, or put on pedestals – is that we have to remember that we all have feet of clay. We all have some weakness, some struggle, something that we have to push against in order to realize who we are.”
The basis of, “FEET OF CLAY” reflects our society’s inability to uphold the level of division and violence that plagues the world around us. “Feet of Clay” is also a reference to a story from the Bible’s old testament that follows King Nebuchadnezzar – who has a dream at night of a bronze statue with feet of clay. The dream gets later translated as a premonition that his kingdom will soon collapse. Earl connects this larger feeling of destruction and polarization that seems to be inflicting our world and sonically creates a sound that matches that tone.
The beats on, “FEET OF CLAY” are distorted, choppy and loopy – even Earl’s voice and flow on each track are not in alignment with the beat. It’s as if he is expressing his lack of connection to the destruction and morals of the world that are swallowing him whole. Often with destruction comes the state of nostalgia and longing for the past, which is what Earl seems to be engulfed within the track, “TISK TISK/COOKIES.”
The track is broken up into two separate parts, although it is still an incredibly short track. This beat is heavily warped and yet has inserts of jazz influences merging in the background. Earl balances the contortion of the beat out by keeping his flow more contained and quicker.
He raps, “I see you tryna rekindle the spark, reelin from loss. Inner remorse, divorce your spirit and corpse, corpse. I tell you I’m hearing it all. The wisdom that’s in your remarks. The stillness in you, I mourn. The moments that’s tender and soft. I’m in them, the memories got strong, but some of them long gone.”
Earl exposes that the destruction of our society that seems to be underway is also eliminating our ability to have meaningful, deep connections with others. Earl mourns his past relationships in this track and this theme of grief is what he is known for exploring most within his music. However, he very rarely inserts moments of hope or the prospect of new life alongside his contemplation of loss – this is a new side of re-birth and longing to create something better that he is now growing into.
On the track, “MTOMB” an old R&B sample takes center stage and sets a tone for self-reflection. He raps, “Pray for the people. I make up the easel first, then paint what I see through. Crudities not gon’ cut it, cut it slight. Braids brought out my eyes. I saw a light, I was nine.” Earl recognizes that his job as an artist is to reflect and expose the world around him – no matter how cruel or dark it is to receive. He is no longer allowing the harshness and reality of suffering to block him from the potential of a new light to be born.
This dedication and prospect of healing past wounds and re-building is exciting to see within Earl’s artistic spirit. It’s as if the smoke has finally cleared, allowing him to fully understand that darkness and light are always simultaneously in existence. During “OD,” his inner power to see both at the same time comes into fruition.
He raps, “Healing cuts, but willingly I’m refilling the pump. My memory really leaking blood. It’s congealing, stuck. I remember love.” He is learning to stand proud in his feet of clay – to stand strong and still in the face of destruction while fighting for life by surrendering to vulnerability.