He took the stage an hour later than scheduled during his South by Southwest debut, but those who had been waiting to see Los Angeles rapper Earl Sweatshirt up there long ago proved their patience. Though only 18 years old, Sweatshirt, part of the Odd Future collective, has been the focus of much attention over the last few years, a lot of it while he was away at boarding school in Samoa.
During his yearlong absence, the kid born Thebe Kgositsile became rap’s prodigal son while the Odd Future collective stormed the rap world with its chaotic, punk-influenced approach. He returned home a year ago, and has spent that time finishing high school, recording music for a forthcoming Sony Music-backed record and, from the looks of his new video for “Whoa,” working on his abs.
Just before 1 a.m., beat producer Flying Lotus, who has been working on tracks with the rapper, stepped up to a microphone and said, simply, “Introducing Earl Sweatshirt,” and then there he was in the flesh, skinny like in the video, a little nervous -- but that soon passed -- and ready to showcase his new tracks.
Over the next half hour, Earl proved why not only rap fans, but advocates of the English language, should be so excited. The son of a South African poet father and a mother who’s a successful attorney, the lyricist was born with a gift for both words and verbal argument, which he displayed in the new music he performed. (His middle name is Neruda, after the Chilean poet).