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Earl Sweatshirt Odd Future

Fuck Earl, Free Thebe!

by Lindokuhle Nkosi / 27.06.2011

I met Earl Sweatshirt three years ago when he was regular 14 year old Thebe Neruda Kgositsile. At the insistence of his older brother, I had driven to an old apartment in leafy Killarney to pick him up and introduce him to my brother of the same age. He had been holed up in the modest apartment with only a Playstation 2 and DStv for company. He was restless. Ennui’d. When I first saw him, I was struck by his genetically defiant height. His father, world-renowned South African poet Koerapetse Willy Kgositsile is no taller than 1.6 meters. He spoke garrulously then about his love for hip hop. He postulated in expletive-laden epithets about the lack of linguistic sorcery and depth in the industry.

Wordsmithery is in his blood. He is named after Spanish poet Pablo Neruda. His father, largely unrecognised in mainstream South Africa, inspired prolific spoken word ensemble “The Last Poets” to name themselves after one of his more popular pieces. His family, however, would insist that the chemical acridity of his lyrics; the volatile concoction of murder porn, violent sexual fantasies and horror-core homophobia are a result of nurture, rather than nature.

Earl Sweatshirt is one part of alternative skate-rap crew Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (Odd Future). The collective founded by ever-controversial Tyler, the Creator has been widely lambasted for their subversive, don’t-give-a-fuck lyricism since the 2.5 minute Earl video went viral. In it, Earl Sweatshirt raps about “jacking off to buffering vids of Asher Roth” and date-raping a girl until she wonders where her ass went; before falling to the ground in a daze-eyed, froth-mouthed stupor. Since then, the group has made a rapid ascent into the hip hop main vein, performing early this year on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon with The Roots. Earl, referred to by some as a rap prodigy and the most skilled rapper of the group, has been conspicuously absent from the public eye for about a year now.

A cryptic “Free Earl” banner looms on the groups Tumblr page. T-shirts have been printed. Facebook groups created. Everyone is asking one simple question: Where the fuck is Earl?

Until recently, a steady stream of misinformation has left Odd Future fans puzzled. One day, Thebe is dead. The next, incarcerated. Sometimes, he’s just an actor who was hired to play-rap in the videos. In an 8000 word article for The New Yorker, Kelefa Sanneh tracks Thebe down to a boarding school (detention centre) for troubled young boys on the island of Samoa.

Earl Sweatshirt

In 2006, a 48 hours exposé on international schools for troubled American teens revealed the abuse, torture and humiliation methods employed by many of these “behaviour correction” facilities. Most of the institutions were shut down following the broadcast, but their popularity has not waned.
In the article, he pleads for his fans to drop the “Free Earl” campaign. “Please listen: I’m not being held against my will.” He also asked for fans (who view his mother as the villainous creator of his demise) to go easy on her. However, there is no way to ascertain whether these are, in fact, Earl’s words. Direct communication with “outsider” is forbidden in the camp, and the reporter was forced to relay the messages to “Earl” through his mother.

Odd Future listlessly awaits his return. In the meantime, group members Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator, have landed major recording deals. The article revealing his whereabouts has re-ignited the Free Earl campaign with a fury. Fans beg for his return, even promising to find the “school” and break him out.

I recall Thebe falling asleep on my couch just before 11pm. His childlike exhaustion, the way he slept with his knees tightly tucked under his chin betrayed his over-confident demeanour and swagger. Personally, I am not too concerned about what happens to Earl Sweatshirt. I imagine some overweight Samoans are bending and breaking his will, contorting him into something more respectable. More palatable. I’m worried about the young man whose verbosity hid the insecurity of an innocent. Fuck Earl. Somebody needs to free Thebe.

Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All

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  1. Tom says:

    Keorapetse is not Thebe’s grandfather then?

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  2. danni says:

    i really really liked this. so nicely written. lucid. interesting. it’s nice to see brains devoid of wank at mahala. more, please.

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  3. Optional says:

    With some editing, this would’ve made for a great read.

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  4. Optional says:

    Was it not Complex magazine that tracked Earl down to the Samoan reform school?

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  5. DontTestLordFinesse says:

    The first time i heard this guy i laughed my ass off and gave props!

    ”i’m a hot and bothered astronaut/ jackin off to buffering videos of Asher Roth eating apple sauce!”-Earl

    This guys rhymestyle is too ill!

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  6. beloe says:

    I didn’t really get the point of this, nice idea but you just rehashed Odd Futures bio. No fresh insight all that’s new is that he kicked it in Killarney I would read a follow up that tells of the Thebe that you know. Keep writing


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  7. Modest Rat says:


    Is that you Danni Diana? Yeah, brains without wank. So, completely unlike your piece on pussies.

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  8. kaizer says:

    Shit! I didn’t know Earl was Keorapetse’s son! Makes sense now.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Earl is montle

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  10. winston chinchill says:

    how the fuck i fit an axe in a satchel

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  11. Nuder says:

    Is Lindokuhle a boy or a girl? Can’t tell with these ethnic names. Is that politically incorrect? Sorry, I suppose I should not ask and just guess in the future. I’ve got a 50% chance of getting right. Well, if you don’t factor in all these intersexed, cross-dressers, transvestites, transsexuals, hermaphrodites, lady-boys, she-males, post-op/pre-op, undefined, Caster Semenyas. Not to forget femininsts who claim, “there is no such thing as a woman.” The world is all right; we’re definitely on the right track.

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  12. Roger Young says:

    Takes all types to make a world; including peeps like you. Oh well.

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  13. Seputla sebogodi says:

    I lyk u guys .

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  14. Chris says:

    Wikipedia says Earl’s mom is Baleka Mbete.
    Anyone know if that’s true.
    Worrying to know that our fallen politicians just emigrate.

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  15. andile war iz hell mbete says:

    earl the sweat shirt has lip sucking dicks/ lip sucking dicks

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Wikipedia evidently sucks donkey kong’s balls. earls’s mom is some law professor at UCLA. Keorapetse was no longer kickin it with Baleka by the time Earl came around.

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  17. wwwiT says:

    Ill comment son!!!

    A future with little positivity does seem odd to me.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    ….THE FUCK!!?!?

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  19. Pro Straight dude says:

    @Nuder. Couldnt have said it better myself. This confused sex mongrelization and destruction of traditional family values, is bringing about the death of society. It needs to STOP! There is nothing wrong with feminism, but when it becomes so extreme that women villify men rather than be the queens that they are supposed to be so that men can realize that they aint getting none unless they are (kingz) honourable enough and worthy, then it has gone too far!

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  20. Melo 07 says:

    Good read this is.
    Thank you young lady/man… I imagine your young because your brother too is thebe’s age. If your old – no disrespect.

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  21. […] a healthy cross-collaborative spirit between rappers and producers (Flying Lotus’ work with Earl Sweatshirt comes to mind), the practise is almost universally lacking in Cape Town – arguably the […]

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