When Odd Future’s second album was released last year it felt like there was something distinctly absent from it. It was only when Earl Sweatshirt popped up with the best verse on the final track ‘Oldie’ (his only appearance) that it became clear that this absence was him. For all the excitement and madcap antics that the rest of the gang bring to the table it is Earl that remains the most gifted MC and on Doris he shows just how far he’s come since his Samoan exodus.

If his previous release, 2010’s free album Earl, was notable for it’s gruesome and often shocking content then Doris is notable for the sound of an artist that raps way beyond his years. “Grandma’s passing/ But I’m too busy tryna get this fuckin’ album cracking to see her” he raps on ‘Burgundy’. This is a sign of things to come as the lyrical content of Doris shows that Earl has matured as an artist since he was last in our presence.

‘Chum’ is one of the album’s standout tracks and was previewed to us in Earl’s Road To Doris mixtape last month under the title ‘Rusty’.  The production is understandably better in the final edit and Earl rides the beat to perfection. “It’s probably been twelve years since my father left/ Left me fatherless/ And I just used to say I hate him in dishonest jest” spits Earl in the tracks opening bars. Much like Tyler’s ‘Answer’ he addresses his fatherhood issues albeit in a much more vulnerable, less humorous and ultimately more powerful manner. “Something sinister to it” he raps on the song’s hook and it feels like the anthem to a tortured soul.

Technically Earl is on top of his game and his flow seems almost effortless at times. There are few rappers around right now with such a natural flow and Earl proves that you don’t need to scream and shout on a rap song to be effective. He lets the lyrics do the talking in a period of hip-hop where sadly the importance placed on a song’s lyrical content seems at an all-time low.

The production is much improved from its 2010 predecessor and features an array of beats from RZA, Tyler and Earl himself amongst others. RZA-produced ‘Molasses’ provides one of the albums most memorable hooks as the Wu-Tang legend raps, “I’ll fuck the freckles off your face bitch” either side of two drug themed verses from Earl. The end result is one of the album’s better collaborations.

If Doris does have one criticism it is that it perhaps has one too many features. There is a host of recognisable voices in Mac Miller, Domo Genesis and Frank Ocean and while their input is not bad as such they are simply not Earl. Such is his hypnotic flow you are almost disappointed every time he relinquishes the mic to another mortal and it merely highlights the level at which Earl performs on this album. This actually emphasises Earl’s talent, as no MC wants to be out-staged on his own song, just ask Big Sean.

In summary Doris is a genuinely impressive album, especially when you consider its author is just 19 years of age. It’s content is both personal and versatile and Earl has already developed his own unique rapping style in an age where MC’s struggle to identify with one distinct style. This is one of the year’s better hip-hop releases and is arguably the best album by any Odd Future member yet. “See that nigga?/And for the time being I’m a be that nigga/ Believe that nigga” he rhymes on ‘Burgundy’. On this evidence, it would be hard not to believe him.

[rating: 4]

Check out the album stream for Doris below