Five years ago, Earl Sweatshirt released his sophomore studio album “I Don’t Like S***, I Don’t Go Outside,” accomplishing the near-impossible. He created an album that not only depicted a specific time in his own life, reading like ripped diary entries scrawled with a discursive immediacy, but also spoke to the universally difficult transition from teen to adult. According to Earl, the album was a “snapshot” of his life, “a dissertation on myself” that simultaneously speaks to an entire generation of young adults grasping for some sense of identity and purpose.
“I Don’t Like S***, I Don’t Go Outside” is an album wise beyond its years. Released five years ago on March 17, 2015, the album has an eerie relevance to the quarantined times we’re in today. Its title started as a joke; Earl explained in a 2015 interview with NPR’s Microphone Check that he was in decently good spirits when coming up with the title as a dark jab for lingering feelings of grief and displacement. But following a leg injury that left him immobile for several months, it was no longer funny—he began “living what (he) wrote,” as he says on “Grief.”
The magic of “IDLSIDGO” lies in its introspective ignorance. Earl was 21 when he released the album and possessed an odd, specific sense of self-awareness; he was old enough to know better, but young enough to continue living a reckless existence. “IDLSIDGO” is an undoubtedly bleak affair, painting an anxious, drug-addled portrait of a young man struggling to find his place in the world. But within this struggle appears strands of irreverent wisdom gleaming from within a pile of ripped-up confessions.
“IDLSIDGO” is downtrodden and moody; it’s a cement pit found within the center of a rotten peach. Between confessions of relying on substances to battle unrequited emotions (“I spent the day drinking and missing my grandmother” from “Huey”) and admitting how lost he feels in the world (“And I don’t know who house to call home lately / I hope my phone break, let it ring” from “Faucet”), Earl pens poignant, intricate verses that lay out his mental state in blunt shades of gray. Bouncing around between these therapy session notes are puff-chested boasts and verbal acrobats (“Got kicked out of the morgue, spit cattle manure s*** / S***, rally the Horsemen, tally the corpses” from “AM // Radio”) that unveil Earl’s emotional uncertainty wrapped within a technical wizardry.
On “IDLSIDGO,” Earl is experiencing the cognitive dissonance that would later shatter on 2019’s “East”; there’s so much sensory overload, from strained relationships to subsequent drug use to the looming presence of adulthood, that it’s too much for the L.A. artist to take in. Instead of attempting to sort through the rubble for some sort of clear theme, Earl captures it all in a single photograph, making the assertion that the complicated emotions that come with maturation can’t be boiled down to any one explanation. Rather, this age of cognitive dissonance is a hodge-podge of confusion and unrest, as young adults scrabble for something, anything, to hold onto during times of such uncertainty.
Earl is at his most impressive when he wields his newly-found lucidity to comment on the fragility of life. On “Grief,” the deeply-poetic dark hole at the center of the album, Earl is in a whirlwind of pain, as he explains within the unrelenting contractions of a hazy, thudding beat. Acknowledging severed ties and a struggle for sanity among anxiety and addiction, Earl’s voice slows to a molasses crawl by the end of the song to make his most poignant revelations: “Thinkin’ bout my grandmama find a bottle / I’mma wallow when I lie in that / I just want my time and my mind intact / When they both gone, you can’t buy ’em back.” In the middle of a monsoon of grief, Earl realizes that the fleeting nature of time and his shaky mental stability are two of the most vulnerable, eminent things in his life—and are both beginning to slip away through clenched fists.
There’s something shockingly resonant about the clear-headedness Earl uses to describe all his anguish. This comes across in the swallowing production, which he’s responsible for nearly all of, and the reflective poetics he delivers wrapped in barbed-wire angst. “IDLSIDGO” is an awkwardly oblong body in sonic form, sprinting from anger to sadness to conceit with the dark snap of a muffled drum. This certain uncertainty makes it undeniably relatable to this day, perfect for the age of consistent unease the world finds itself in five years later.
Earl says a lot with a little on “IDLSIDGO,” packing deep sentiments and much meaning into heavy machine gun bursts of lyrical sincerity. In doing so, he takes an important step in his artistic evolution while capturing the difficult unrest between adolescence and adulthood in a murky, vivid snapshot. Five years later, “I Don’t Like S***, I Don’t Go Outside” rings true as a masterclass of introspective ignorance—a perfect album for the imperfect times we’re in.