• Marty Gross

The Similarities Between King Krule and Earl Sweatshirt

About a month ago I went on a trip to visit my sister in St. Louis. My grand finale of the trip was going to the record store. The record store there was breathtaking, to say the least. I felt like an alcoholic in a liquor store. After an hour of drooling and admiring the tangible pieces of circular black discs, I came out with King Krule’s (Archy Marshall) most recent album Man Alive!, which came out a few months ago. I took it out of the sleeve, threw it on the record player and closed my eyes, fully immersing myself in the music. I sat back and listened to every beautiful nuance the instrumental contained and I sunk into my chair. The album left me in a damn-near unconscious state as the music gods extracted my soul from my body. After the listen, my mind and body needed a change of pace. My brain wouldn’t be able to withstand another round of musical expertise or my mind would be haunted with circles of thought that would tarnish my sanity. 

I grabbed my phone, threw on some earbuds, and hit shuffle on my incessant playlist that has plenty of mindless tracks. I prayed feverishly that Nav or Playboi Carti would blast my mind into instant, distracted euphoria instead of somber beauty. But as my wretched finger tapped the “shuffle play” button on Spotify, my deepest, darkest fears scorched my ears like a preexisting campfire when gasoline is doused upon it. The booming piano chords of “December 24th” by Earl Sweatshirt (Thebe Kgositsile) shotgunned me, and my mind exploded into extreme thought. When I listened, I re-recognized the beautiful syntax and godly wordplay that broadcasted from Earl’s lips, like usual. But then, in an instant as effortless and quick as an intuitive Earl syllable, my thoughts raced in a completely contemporary direction.

I didn’t only think about Earl’s thought-provoking diction, but began to think about Earl on a more macro level. I thought about Earl’s career as a whole. He started out as an exciting, raw, and abrasive teenager with Odd Future and evolved into a culturally relevant, grimy, beautiful poet. As I thought about the impressive career of Earl, I also thought about Krule’s career, too. I then realized that Krule’s career started almost the exact same way. Starting as an exciting, raw, and abrasive teenager under the name Zoo Kid, he, too, evolved into a culturally relevant, grimy, and beautiful poet. 

As I listened more and more to their material, the more and more I realized the blatant similarities between them. Each artist is a master at his respective genre; each with completely different dialects, yet the similarities between them are colossal. 

For both, the stardom was struck upon them years before their brains would even fully develop. Believe it or not, King Krule and Earl Sweatshirt are both 26 years old. Because they are so young, it seems impossible to think that both have 10 years of music under their belts. First under the name Zoo Kid, the grunge/punk prodigy Krule started to gain traction after his debut single “Out Getting Ribs” released July 17, 2010. One month away from turning 16 years old, Krule was praised for his avant-garde guitar chords and gruelingly deep voice that rocketed him through the gate into instant stardom. 

Earl’s story isn’t much different. Earl also started to rap with collective Odd Future at around 15 years old. His extremely advanced pen game and dense vocabulary intrigued many fans around him, giving himself buzz around the LA rap scene. A year later, he followed up a few singles with the cult classic Earl mixtape which propelled Earl to stardom. Both became prodigies in their respective fields and grabbed the attention of many music critics around the world.  

They achieved to amass their followings in a way that was still in its infancy... the mothafuckin' World Wide Web, baby.  Let's think back to a much simpler time. There was no Spotify, Amazon Prime, or Apple Music. If you wanted to buy an album on your computer, you either had to illegally download it like a music-vigilante Robin Hood, or make the excruciatingly difficult decision to spend your Christmas money that year on one or two albums of your choosing. No $9.99 a month plans with unlimited music listening. Just chaos. But by 2010, something in the world was changing. More and more people were not just able to listen to music, but post it on the web for anyone to listen to. This made it possible for anyone to not only listen to free Jay-Z tracks, but to even create music without the bullshit behind a label.

This is how Earl and the King made their rise to fame. Krule dropped his first song on Bandcamp (a music website for artists to post their music for free) “Out Getting Ribs,” which boosted his stock significantly, even saying in a Guardian Interview, The internet made me.” Earl rode a similar route, uploading almost all of his music to the Odd Future website or Myspace for free. Earl and Tyler, the Creator even connected through Myspace! Earl and Krule’s generosity and gratitude to the music world paved ways for the modern artist to make music. 

Once their careers took flight, their travels remained the same - even down to the types of music they were making. If you look at each of Earl and Krule’s albums they have made over the past seven years, the styles and themes of their album are very similar. 

For example on Krule’s debut album 6 Feet Beneath The Moon, Krule tends to make much more upbeat music. On 6 Feet Beneath The Moon, he uses heavier and more jagged guitar chords to create a grunge and punk type aspect. More of the songs on the album talk about the raw emotions of a teenager and songs that tend to get you more amped, but have dreary undertones. Many songs on here give off the “Hey Ya!” effect (a song that gives off an extremely happy vibe, but has a saddening undertone). In the song “Easy, Easy”, the vivid guitar riffs and explosive progression of Krule's voice gives off happy emotions of sorts. Yet, Krule is spilling out the hardships of working an absolutely grueling, pitiful job and the depression of feeling like an absolute nobody. As it isn’t a new idea by any means, it has been used frequently and perfected by Krule on this album.

Earl displayed this same scheme on his first album Doris. In songs like “Molasses”, Earl strings together phrases that describe drug abuse to cope with mental health issues and many other taboo topics that aren't usually said in buoyant tracks.             

On most of the tracks throughout their early albums, the lyrics and wordplay in the tracks do not accurately reflect the instrumental they chose in the song. Both are infants to the game who still make fantastic, beautiful, rich, and riveting songs, but are still trying to make music that reflects them on a personal level.  

As their careers went on, they truly started to embrace their true selves. They not only evolved in age, but evolved in a sense of creativity and music expertise. On both of their second albums, their instrumentals started to resemble more and more of their lyrics. On Krule’s second album The Ooz, Krule has songs like “Cadet Limbo” which describe a heavy night of drug use and drinking that spirals him into intensive thought about his career, in which he describes even sensing a change in himself. The tone of the track is very dreary, which really amplifies his evolution as a person. But, he still has songs that embody his teenage years like “Dum Surfer”, a song about a heavy night of drinking gone wrong, but still remains extremely upbeat.

On Earl’s sophomore album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, he maintains a similar path to Archy. The album is also somber, but contains many of the same type of principles; sadder instrumentals that embody the lyrics. But like Krule, there are still songs like “Wool” and “DNA” that embrace his teenage years and were probably recorded in the early stages of the album.

But, where we see the most astonishing similarities is when you look at their last albums. 

On Krule’s last album Man Alive!, he says most of his inspiration for the album came from becoming a parent and moving back to London to become closer to family. Man Alive! really epitomizes his true awakening as an artist and the maturity that fatherhood has brought him. His child inspired him to blossom into a mature artist who uses unique and distorted instrumentals while embracing himself to his full extent. In a Guardian interview earlier this year, Krule reflects on the birth of his daughter, saying, “When she was born, she was the biggest expression of life and love, but I also lost some good people last year,” he says. “Those juxtapositions between death and such extreme life must have had an effect on me.”

These juxtapositions all spilled and marinated in him to create the masterpiece of Man Alive! These same juxtapositions are seen heavily in Earl’s Capital-A Album Some Rap Songs. On one hand, he established a relationship with conscious avant-garde rap prodigy, MIKE, who inspired a lot of Earl’s sound on this album. Also, Earl rekindled an estranged relationship with his father. On the other hand, just as his relationship with his father was coming together, he tragically passed away. These juxtapositions and sorrows are infused heavily into this project, yet Earl found the most peace through making it. In an NPR interview, he explains that “This [album] is the most involved fusion dance between my actual self and just this other thing.”  

Both artists' most recent albums are the truest forms of themselves we could ever see. In the same NPR Interview, Earl even says "My favorite part about this s*** is my whole name, and then differentiating Earl Sweatshirt as a PKA". Earl exemplifies the importance of his name being attached to this album because of how dear it is to him. On the album, he has an instrumental dedicated to his uncle, the audio from a poem said from his father, and the audio of a speech his mother completed after she accepted an award. These pieces of dialogue would've probably never been seen in early albums because of the family conflicts Earl had throughout his early life.   

Even though I could list off millions of similarities between Krule and Earl, (like a lot of their music is heavily influenced by drugs or their statures both don’t reflect their voice), the main point that I think we should all take away is that the albums demonstrate the evolution of not only their musical abilities, but their evolutions as people. Both of their raw and jaw-dropping talent that we saw in their early albums have mushroomed into mature, intelligent, and personal records that personify them the most. So, even if you have your qualms with these records and prefer their old music, you at least have to respect the sheer personal reflections that are present on both albums. And that alone is enough to respect both artists' beauty and craft. Well, that's all I got. Peace!!