“Chum” – Earl Sweatshirt
It might have been half-an-hour, perhaps even an hour (for I could take but imperfect note of time) before I again cast my eyes upward. What I then saw confounded and amazed me. The sweep of the pendulum had increased in extent by nearly a yard. As a natural consequence, its velocity was also much greater. But what mainly disturbed me was the idea that it had perceptibly DESCENDED. I now observed, with what horror it is needless to say, that its nether extremity was formed of a crescent of glittering steel, about a foot in length from horn to horn; the horns upward, and the under edge evidently as keen as that of a razor. Like a razor also it seemed massy and heavy, tapering from the edge into a solid and broad structure above. It was appended to a weighty rod of brass, and the whole HISSED as it swung through the air. – The Pit and the Pendulum, Edgar Allan Poe
This is a quote from the short story The Pit and the Pendulum, in which the protagonaist awakes in a stonewalled room that has nothing in it save for an enormous pendulum that swings above him. As the story continues the pendulum slowly, but very surely, descends towards the protagonists abdomen. It is a startling psychological thriller of a short story, and I highly recommend that you read it here.
This prefaces my song choice for today, “Chum” by Earl Sweatshirt, very nicely. I am not sure that he was referencing the story, when he says “Something sinister to it, Pendulum swinging slow, a degenerate moving”. Even if he doesn’t, the monotone vocals and the repetitive beat seem to mimic the feeling of unavoidable, slow doom. As the song goes on Earl continues down this road, lamenting his relationships and decisions, and dreading the future.
Thebe Neruda Kgositsile (born February 24, 1994), better known by his stage name Earl Sweatshirt, was born born to Cheryl Harris, a law professor at University of California, Los Angeles, and Keorapetse Kgositsile, a South African poet and political activist who left the family when Earl was 6-years-old (a departure poignantly mentioned early in the song). He grew up in the Los Angeles area and in 2009, at the age of 15, Earl Sweatshirt was discovered by Tyler, The Creator via his MySpace account.
After some successful recordings Earl was sent to Samoa by his mother. Although rumors swirled that it was due to his music, Earl continues to insist that it was because he was getting into trouble. Earl attended Coral Reef Academy, a therapeutic retreat school for at-risk boys, located outside of the Samoan capital of Apia. While there, he read Manning Marable’s biography on Malcolm X and Richard Fariña’s counterculture fiction.
On February 8, 2012, rumors spread around the internet that Sweatshirt had returned to the U.S. when a video of him surfaced on YouTube with a preview of a new song saying if viewers wanted “the full thing” they would have to give him 50,000 followers on Twitter. He also later confirmed on his new Twitter account that he had returned to his home in Los Angeles. Three hours passed and Sweatshirt reached 50,000 followers and did release a new song on his website, entitled “Home”, in which he ends the song with “…and I’m back. Bye.”
“Chum” is the first single that Earl Sweatshirt has released since coming back from Samoa, and he makes it very clear that he has serious questions about his existence in the world of hip-hop. He references Complex magazine which named his album Earl the 24th best album of 2010, and says in no uncertain terms that he isn’t happy.
Craven and these Complex fuck niggas done track me down
Just to be the guys that did it, like I like attention
Not the type where niggas trying to get a raise at my expense
Supposed to be grateful, right, like thanks so much you made my life
Harder and the ties between my mom and I are strained and tightened
Even more than they were before all of this shit
Been back a week and I already feel like calling it quits
I often find myself attracted to such emotional hip-hop not because I want to listen to it all the time, but because of the passion that people like Earl Sweatshirt put down in their lyrics. It’s hard to find so much feeling in music that doesn’t sound whiny.