Earl Sweatshirt, the absent mystery at the center of the Odd Future hip-hop collective, has apparently returned from the Samoan youth camp where he had widely rumored to be living.
Twenty-two hours ago, a mysterious tweet from an @earlxsweat simply read "home." Then came a YouTube link to a brief video snippet of Earl, speaking in what appeared to be a bedroom with a Webcam, playing a snippet of a single and promising the release of a full new song if he earned 50,000 followers on Twitter that day. For Odd Future fans, speculation about the return of Earl has taken on almost messianic importance; his whereabouts were even the subject of a lengthy New Yorker profile last year. Earl promptly met his Twitter goal and pointed fans to a new Tumblr page and a separate website, terttlefer.com, that appears to be an authentic home page for Earl Sweatshirt.
Right now, its only content is a stream of a new single, "Home," that feature's Earl's nimble, restrained delivery atop a beat by Stone's Throw mainstay James Pants. Sweatshirt has long been regarded as the best pure rapper in Odd Future and has a compelling family history -- as the New Yorker piece pointed out, his father is the renowned South African poet and activist Keorapetse Kgositsile. The return of Earl (whose real name is Thebe Kgositsile) and the arrival of this new single are maybe one of the biggest stories in underground rap. It's also very, very good and hopefully, the first of many to come.
We've reached out to Odd Future reps to confirm whether Earl he is in fact in Los Angeles or posting music from elsewhere. At press time, his reps were unable to confirm his whereabouts. But in the meantime, you may want to update your "Free Earl" swag.
-- August Brown
Photo: A still from Earl Sweatshirt's video for "Earl." Credit: OddFuture.com