Almost exactly a month after Earl Sweatshirt released his second studio album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, “solace,” a 10-minute extended single, emerged from Sweatshirt’s unofficial YouTube channel. Captioned with a vague, “Music for when I hit the bottom and found something,” it’s about as introspective as one can imagine. In between dissonant instrumental interludes and softly gliding synths, Sweatshirt raps about past addictions, loneliness and his grandma. It’s subject material that has been used in most of his past projects, from Doris to I Don’t Like Shit, yet, differing from both of these, “solace” presents something softer, a little more hopeful. “And I buy nothin’ by myself, my second thoughts, my sec,” he mumbles in the fourth section, stumbling into silence, before picking back up with, “My hands, I start to cry when I see them / Cause they remind me of seein’ her / These the times when I need her the most cause I feel defeated.” On their own, the verses drag with a melancholic weight, yet the piano in background is open and gentle; in complete emptiness, there is always solace to be found, he seems to be saying. When rock bottom has been hit, there is nowhere to go but up.
This past week, Earl Sweatshirt, after three years of nearly complete silence, dropped “Nowhere2Go.” When I listened to it for the first time — and nearly every other time after that — I was inexplicably reminded of “solace.” Lyrically, “Nowhere2Go” isn’t as darkly intimate: “I found a new way to cope / It ain’t no slave to my soul / But I keep the memories close by,” he raps in a steady march. Yet, both songs share a similar vulnerability, the looping drum melody of “Nowhere2Go” inducing the same effect as “solace”’s wandering lo-fi ambiance — a subtle optimism that was rarely seen amid the bleakness of I Don’t Like Shit or Doris’s chaotic whorl.
“Nowhere2Go” isn’t a single in the traditional sense. Rather, it seems to serve as an introduction of what’s to come, a snippet of a new sound that Sweatshirt has been toying with since “solace.” After all, you can barely hear Sweatshirt deliver his bars underneath “Nowhere2Go”’s heavy production, and this seems to be intentional. Languidly, he throws out monorhymes alongside more complex rhythms, and both are allowed to surface organically, free-flowing from the clutter. The result is something drowsily thoughtful: ideas that Earl Sweatshirt’s been mulling over in his head for a while but has only just now found out how to put into words.