The Odd Future phenomenon comes with a good deal of inbuilt drama, the most interesting subplot being the case of Earl Sweatshirt. As Odd Future continues its meteoric rise to becoming one of the most discussed hip hop acts in recent memory, one of its founding members misses the party due to jail, or boarding school, or death, depending on which band explanation you choose to cite. Until last month, when Complex magazine did some Facebook sleuthing to locate Earl at a school for troubled boys in Samoa. All the while, Earl maintained silence, out of reach. Until the New Yorker’s Kelefah Sanneh got him to answer some questions via email.
The magazine says Sanneh’s piece is an 8,000 word epic that took months to complete, and you’ll need a subscription to the print or digital version of the periodical to enjoy it. They did post some worthwhile bits to the internet though, including further bio data on Earl: Real name Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, son of the esteemed South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile. (His father hasn’t heard his music: “When he feels that he’s got something to share with me, he’ll do that, and until then I will not impose myself on him just because the world talks of him.”) His mother has kept her name off the record for fear of being harassed, a sentiment which Earl himself seems to share. Which is to say, Earl is in Samoa voluntarily, and still in need of “space,” which means he’s calling for “no more ‘Free Earl,” because he’s “still got work to do and don’t need the additional stress of fearing for my family’s physical well-being.” He says “I miss home,” and that we’ll hear from him when he’s ready. A full quote of Earl, in his own e-mailed words:
“Initially I was really pleased that all these people claimed that they wanted me released because I thought that translated into ‘they care,’” Earl wrote. “So time progresses and the fan base gets bigger and the ‘Free Earl’ chants get louder but now with the ‘Free Earl’ chants come a barely indirect ‘Fuck Earl’s Mom’ and in the blink of an eye my worry changes from ‘will there still be this hype when I get back’ to ‘Oh shit I just inspired a widespread movement of people who are dedicated to the downfall of my mom.’”
Meanwhile the Odd Future website homepage remains steadfastly dedicated to the downfall of Earl’s mom.
So while Earl has become a chant and Thebe takes an ocean’s worth of space to get a hold on life before it spirals out around him, his friends toy with the media and bait beefs with every and any concept of political correctness imaginable. Watching Tyler and Thebe evolve from their current basepoints, within and without the storm, will be fascinating.
If you’d like to see the genesis of Thebe’s prose and cadence, watch his father speak: