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Arts and Entertainment

Earl Sweatshirt Turns Dark And Personal At The House Of Blues Tonight

Rapper Earl Sweatshirt performs at Coachella in 2013 (Karl Walter/Getty Images Entertainment)
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For fans of the rapper Earl Sweatshirt, there has always been an element of elusiveness that has made him the most intriguing rapper to emerge from the Odd Future collective. When the Los Angeles-based collective of teenagers had their breakthrough five years ago, their charismatic and attention-grabbing leader Tyler, The Creator garnered all the headlines for this 'look at me' antics and profane lyrics. But ever present only in the group's videos and music was Earl, whose slick flow and wordplay made him obviously the most talented emcee and quite possibly the most sinister.

The rapper, long removed from those Odd Future days and possibly no longer affiliated, performs tonight at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip as part of the Not Redy 2 Leave Tour. Supported by OF-affiliate Vince Staples and the emerging Remy Banks, it'll be fascinating to see how his new music translates to the stage when he performs his most personal works for an audience.

It's an old story by now. The then-16-year old was cast off to Samoa by his mom right as he was breaking out, in an effort to get his shit together. His debut mixtape, EARL garnered critical acclaim, in spite of its twisted, scatological lyrics about rape and dismemberment (among other things). "Free Earl" became a mantra, chant, and hashtag among Odd Future devotees.

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Early 2012 saw the return of Earl to the United States, followed by his major-label debut album. Doris was a departure from the Odd Future sound and style that got all the attention and inspired all the thinkpieces in the first place. The rapper turned introspective, rapping about fame, his personal demons and his relationship with his mother. Gone were his horrorcore lyrics about rape and murder, after spending time with victims of sexual abuse and rape while in Samoa. Despite the left turn in sound and style, Doris was a hit with critics.

Over two years later, his follow-up album I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside (which was almost unexpectedly released in a botched fashion) sees the rapper turning even more inward. Earl ventures into dark places once again, but this time they are corners of his psyche. The beats (almost all of which are done by Earl himself) sound turgid, and the songs feel hook-less. It's not an album tailor-made for easy consumption, its relatively muted (but still positive) reception indicative of that. Earl, it seems, is voluntarily withdrawing from his audience.

Earl Sweatshirt, Vince Staples, and Remy Banks perform at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip tonight at 7 p.m. 8430 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood. (323) 848-5100. Tickets: $41.

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