In February 2012, Earl Sweatshirt returned to the U.S. from his forced sabbatical at a Samoan boarding school, only a few weeks before the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. These two events are linked not just by their timing, but also by the shared image of the sweatshirt as a symbol for the young black male, its hood protecting his vulnerability from outside scrutiny while also making him an easy target for racial profilers. Earl’s strong full-length debut, Doris (2013), can, in fact, be listened to as a commentary on post-Trayvon America, with its ambivalent ruminations on family, fame, violence, and race. All of this is woven together by a deep lyricism and a preternatural talent for assonant rhyme, which, when supported by eerie beats that strike a balance between melody and texture, welcome repeat listens. This week he performs twice: Tonight at Webster Hall and on Saturday at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. With Rat King.
Thu., Feb. 20, 8 p.m., 2014