DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Well, to more sound now - some music from Earl Sweatshirt. His father is South Africa's poet laureate. His mom is a UCLA professor. Earl, for his part, is a rapper - in the past, a controversial one. He began his promising career as a teenager with an attention-grabbing music video and membership in the hip-hop collective Odd Future, which is known for pushing some buttons. Yesterday, Earl released his second major-label solo album. And he spoke to NPR's Frannie Kelley about how he's evolved.
FRANNIE KELLEY, BYLINE: A few years ago, Earl Sweatshirt was best known for being gone. He didn't perform with Odd Future, and his compatriots made noise about freeing him. The Internet vilified his mother. It turns out she had sent him to a school in Samoa, a place he calls baby prison.
EARL SWEATSHIRT: I had outgrown my house when I was 16. That's why I got sent away. You get to a point where you don't fit no more 'cause, you know, you're not in the right place in the right time. You're not doing what you supposed to be doing. But if I had gone anywhere else than where I went, then I wouldn't have done the work I needed to do to be who I am right now.
KELLEY: And right now three years after coming home, he's just put out an album with a radio-unfriendly title. I'll call it I don't like anything. I don't go outside.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FAUCET")
KELLEY: The 21-year-old credits both his time away and his mother's foresight for his fast-track growth.
SWEATSHIRT: It's a song called "Faucet" that touches on it, like, really, really, really well.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FAUCET")
SWEATSHIRT: (Singing) Ain't step foot up in my momma place for a minute. My days numbered. Focus heavy on making the most of them. I feel like I'm the only one pressing to grow upwards.
When I turned 20, it was like I got socked out of whatever zone I was in at that time.
KELLEY: What did you become aware of?
KELLEY: This is a concept commonly called woke. Earl says another woman, singer Erykah Badu, helped him arrive at this place. And his mother helped him understand its power.
SWEATSHIRT: I was in the car with my mom. We was driving to school. We was listening to "Master Teacher" - Erykah Badu.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MASTER TEACHER")
ERYKAH BADU: (Singing) I stay woke. I stay woke.
SWEATSHIRT: I was singing the hook, like, (singing) I stay woke. I was, like, 14 - like, (singing) I stay woke. My mom was, like, no - like, she turned it down. She was, like, no you're not.
KELLEY: Earl says there are moments on his new album that make him cringe when his mom listens. But he's proud that what he's made is honest.
SWEATSHIRT: It's clear. That's what - that's all my mom - her main concern was is that I'm just transparent with myself - just self-awareness.
KELLEY: And he says he's sitting on another batch of songs - a project called Solace that he made just for her. Frannie Kelley, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GREENE: And you can hear much more from Earl Sweatshirt at npr.org/microphonecheck. You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.