It’s easy to imagine that for many reading, their first experience with vinyl is most likely one connected to their childhood and one pervaded by warm feelings of nostalgia. However, in my case it came much later. In a perfect world, this article would be focused on the time that I found MF DOOM’s 2004 record Mm… Food for a ridiculously cheap price on the (very) limited green vinyl, however, mistakes were made and the DOOM was snatched up by somebody else so fast that it was almost unbelievable. So, to try to console myself over that loss, I ventured to the nearest record store intent on finding a personal favourite record – at the time, I was heavily focused on darker abstract hip-hop, so it makes sense that Earl Sweatshirt’s bleak 2015 album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside (which will be shortened to IDLSIDGO throughout!) caught my eye in the moment. It was a while before I was actually able to listen to it, but in the meantime I must have looked at the credits, the samples, the grim imagery on the sleeve and the artwork in general a thousand times over.
When I did finally spin the record, it was just as good as I remembered. The album is only 30 minutes, so it fits comfortably on one record, and as odd as the interruption in the middle felt in comparison to the usual track to track flow, there was something distinct about listening on vinyl. The album itself is incredibly bleak – a genuinely icy, very concise album featuring a lot of very oppressive lo-fi beats and watching Earl’s style transition from his (ironically) MF DOOM inspired lyricism towards something much darker and altogether his own. It’s certainly the record that shows the most growth for him as an artist, even if his 2018 release Some Rap Songs made for another fascinating jump in style. Subverting just about every expectation built from his first two releases, Earl seems to crash into depression with tracks like ‘Grief’ detailing his issues with paranoia and anxiety and ‘Off Top’ explaining this pit of self hatred that Earl says he has had ‘’since the Motorola Razr’’ (Earl was 10 when the phone was released).
For all of its aggression, there are some brief moments of beauty. They wouldn’t be fully realised until Some Rap Songs in 2018 (with songs like ‘Azucar’ and ‘Riot!’), but the instrumental interlude that closes the absolutely harrowing ‘AM//Radio’ adds some semblance of hope to what is otherwise a seriously hard listen. It seems a little blunt that my first experience with the joys of vinyl would be on a record with self loathing lyrics such as ‘’Nowadays I’m on the hunt for mirrors to box with’’, but at the same time, it’s altogether fitting that the album became only more intense thanks to the artwork and the slightly tinny sound of my lower-end record player. It all came together in the end, just in an unexpected way – and thus, a new obsession was born… and an expensive one, too.
I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside is available on streaming services, CD and (of course) vinyl via Tan Cressida. Listen to the single ‘Grief’ below: