Familiarity breeds content. If Earl Sweatshirt’s debut album placed him at the center of Odd Future hype and Doris found him edging away from the collective, his latest album is the prelude to a separation. I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside is smaller than its predecessors but more explosive; it bursts like a match, flickers intensely and then vanishes, leaving a trail of smoke and the distinct smell of burned bridges.

Separation can be good for creativity, and in Earl’s case, the narrower his inner circle, the sharper his wit. There’s the usual shit-talking on aimed at no one in particular, but every so often there’s a quotable burn that’s hard to read as anything but friendly fire. “You circus niggas/ You turning into tricks,” he observes on “Grief.” To be fair, “Camp Flog Gnaw,” Odd Future’s annual hip-hop extravaganza, is technically a carnival and not a circus, but I won’t mince words.

I Don’t Like Shit is the work of someone carefully and emotionlessly severing dozens of ties at once, the lyrical equivalent of an unfriending spree. It throws punches at indirect angles, the album title a fine specimen of the kind of Sweatshirt-ian sarcasm reserved for mugs like Peter Rosenberg and the smaller-time mugs that comprise his listenership. “Y’all still debating over Earl music,” he spits on “Grief,” and you can hear him rolling his eyes. Sweatshirt’s lyrics and twitter presence recall the Groucho Marx quote about not wanting to belong to a club that would accept you as member. He’s famous now, and clearly he’s enjoying the perks; by my count, between the drugs, fellatios and alcohol catalogued on I Don’t Like Shit, Earl might have had a solid week in 2014 to record the album. But it’s recognition from the wrong people.

That might explain the frequent references to Earl’s mother. In an interview with NPR, Earl described the embarrassment of having mom hear his original work. His latest, he explained, is mom-friendlier. That’s relative, but most of the album’s tracks give a shout-out to Momma Sweatshirt. Amidst the betrayal and thievery of the South California hip-hop scene, she’s the closest thing on the album to a guiding light. Sometimes, as on “Faucet,” she inspires shame: “Ain’t step foot up in my momma place for a minute.” More often, as on “Grief,” she dispenses wisdom: “Momma taught me how to read ‘em when I look” and “Momma taught me how to not be like the bodies lying in them.” Earl’s signature misanthropy isn’t so signature after all; turns out he was just listening to his mom.

But is his mom listening to him? The writing on I Don’t Like Shit is a step up for Earl, ironed, combed, wildly efficient rapping that any mother could be proud of. “I don’t act hard, I’m a hard act to follow, nigga,” he quips at one point, tossing off the kind of one-liner which Drake’s dreams are made of. The instrumentals, meanwhile, are mostly memorable (see, in particular, the pixilated smog of “Grief”), but their main strength is that they don’t get in the way of Earl’s bars. And, by the looks of it, friends and foes alike would do well to follow suit.

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