Earl Sweatshirt is arguably one of the best lyricists in modern rap music. He delivers polysyllabic rhymes laced with meaning and metaphor and self-examines in a way that feels refreshingly out of fashion in the world of mainstream hip-hop. But the man behind the moniker, Thebe Kgositsile, is very different. Speaking with Uproxx’s Jasmin Leigh, it’s clear that Thebe is a man of few words — he prefers to spend time in his head, examining his thoughts, as so many great poets do.
Jasmin spoke with Thebe ahead of a public conversation on art, music, and life between the rapper and his mother, distinguished law professor Cheryl I. Harris, at the MOCA in Los Angeles, and Thebe was clearly nervous about the event. Obviously, this was more than a simple chat between a mother and son on a public stage. A living meme turned rap icon, Earl Sweatshirt captured the imagination of early Odd Future fans with the Free Earl Movement, a joke turned stalker-ish reality that eventually led misguided fans into bad-mouthing Thebe’s own mother for sending him to a boarding school in Samoa, and making them feel like they had some kind of ownership over Thebe’s life outside of Earl Sweatshirt.
So a talk between Thebe and his Mother felt overdue and like a chance for a genuinely cathartic experience. Not just for the people involved for all of Earl’s fans.
Thebe knew as much, telling Jasmin, “What I’m dealing with is like, intense feelings of not wanting to do this. Naturally, but I also know that its something that is 100% necessary,” explaining that the relationship between his mother, himself, and his fans. “It was already was a public thing, so it has to get wrapped up in public.”
What unfolded was a roughly 40-minute chat where Thebe and his mother chatted about everything from race relations, to public education, to the inspirations behind Earl’s latest release, Feet of Clay. If you’re an Earl fan, this is a must-watch and adds a lot of much-needed closure between Earl’s fan base and their relationship to his mother — who he clearly loves and sees as an inspiration. Check out the full interview above.