Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist hypnotise on the NFT-released Voir Dire

Release date: 25 August 2023
Earl Sweatshirt The Alchemist Voir Dire cover
28 August 2023, 09:00 Written by Noah Barker

“Let the beat ride,” seems to be the mentality of this particular vein of underground hip-hop which has spread like the world’s first wholesome contagion.

Billy Woods, the Griselda clan, and Danny Brown have built careers off of eschewing traditional song structure and letting a song simply be a murderous vessel for as many words as they can cram on top of a steady instrumental. Where Earl Sweatshirt has always differed, or at least since the release of his landmark Some Rap Songs (2018), is that he is a voice of surface-level zen; the calmness of his forthright vocal style is a dust cover for a turbulent soul.

Where his contemporaries can let a song be no more than a verse simply due to their resolute sense of confrontation and energy, Sweatshirt lets the world spin while he remains put; his tenor may be relaxed, but his nuance is second to none. Voir Dire is yet another achievement of his that manages to lull the listener into a false sense of security, as that is where all great contemplations occur. It could even be said that opener “100 High Street” is unassuming at first, however, once closer “Free the Ruler” rattles its closing themes of grief and injustice between your eardrums, and the thought of Sweatshirt phoning it in becomes blasphemous. He is not unbothered by the moral failings of society, just unsurprised.

The Alchemist, a veteran producer with so many notches in his belt that he should get it replaced by now, plays the role of film scorer to backtrack Sweatshirt’s increasingly despondent dialogues. His beats may run a bit too simplistic as the record meanders its way into the door, but by the time “27 Braids” and “My Brother, The Wind” have collided with the listener like a rustic breeze, his craft unfurls. A beat may be a sound palette of unexplored themes, or it can just be a drum fill firing out relentlessly, it’s what you make of it.

If anything, Voir Dire is a record that pulls itself apart as it continues, subtly dredging the listener in philosophical bile and pause-the-track one-liners: “My brother Sun Ra / We all need you / Godspeed You! Black Emperor,” causes a voracious spit-take. Although its temporary release in NFT format may be the sort of odd-tasteless decision one should expect from all great artists, the extra three clicks of a button to find it should not sour the discovery. It’s a biblical moment of gratitude; I only have to put in minimally more effort to have access to a great mind expressing its multitudes. Modernity is hell – and a hell of a thing.

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