Earl Sweatshirt gives 112 per cent

GROWN-ASS-MAN: Earl Sweatshirt performs at Auckland's Laneway Festival.
GROWN-ASS-MAN: Earl Sweatshirt performs at Auckland's Laneway Festival.

Sitting down for the briefest of moments with Stuff.co.nz, Earl Sweatshirt says his performance yesterday was "112 per cent".

He repeats that a lot.

The rapper yesterday graced the stage at Auckland's Laneway festival, spitting vocals of his debut album, Doris, and a few of his older tracks.

With him, he brought Odd Future collaborator Domo Genesis, who features heavily on Doris and acted as his hype man.

The teenager, born Thebe Kgositsile, had never been to New Zealand before.

But, as he puts it, he's "been in the neighbourhood".

He tells fans, he didn't have so much fun last time he was in the area.

This time, he says, "I'm having a lot of fun."

I'm tempted not to ask him how much fun he's had.

But he says, 'go for it'.

"I won't get in trouble, I'm a grown-ass man."

That's debatable.

But here's how he runs down his first 24 hours in the country.

"We did a lot, we had a champagne breakfast, played f...... cards, I smoked a lot of weed."

He makes a clarification.

"Californian weed! I can't disclose how we did that, because I would have to kill you. And I recorded two songs.

"We finished them up in the studio this morning during champagne breakfast."

Sceptical. Turns out it's true though. There's photos floating around online of Earl and his crew in an Auckland studio.

Here's how the legend of Earl Sweatshirt began.

As the story goes, a couple of years ago the young rapper was in this part of the world - at a reform school in Samoa. He was sent there by his mother to address the rapper's lifestyle he had been getting deeper and deeper into.

A social media campaign to "Free Earl" was started, a blow-up of the Odd Future collective he belongs to hyped his name, yadayadayada.

The upshot is, the 19-year-old has now made one of the best rap albums of the last year, collecting fame and requests to tour internationally in its wake.

That's how the rapper came back to the South Pacific yesterday. And, based on his telling of the day's antics, it's hard to tell how much of the reforming has sunk in.

The set showed off a tour de force of energy - Earl, for sure, knows what it means to dominate a stage - but there were problems.

Starting out, the sound was bad, as if everything was underwater. The bass was heavily muted. The swollen crowd didn't like this, starting chants of "turn it up!" and threatening mutiny.

It continued through half of the set before it was finally sorted, leaving fans a little frustrated.
Earl won them back though, his performance was tight and complex. Rhymes and hooks flowed easily from his lips.

Asked about sound issues in his set, Earl says again:

"It's about 112 per cent. About 112, in the nick of time."

On his fans, "They're f...... awesome, all fans are awesome."

Including the "daddy types" that he spotted off to the side of the stage during his set.

"I don't think those dads were my fans. But just like I've told everyone else, if there's one thing I'll leave Laneway with, Earl Sweatshirt respects the fathers. I respect dads."

With his album full of refrains about his own absentee father, it's an interesting thing to fixate on. He's running with it though.

"It's a chilled thing, bro. Hopefully it becomes a trend."

Earl heads to Wellington tonight, performing with friends and fellow Laneway acts Danny Brown and Run the Jewels in a sideshow before hitting Australia for the rest of the Laneway tour.

"It's another show, I get paid, and I like small shows too," he says.

" I like small shows better than big shows because it's intimate, it's tight."
"I honestly like performing, a lot. I used to hate that shit but now I've grown up a bit."

- You can see Earl Sweatshirt, Danny Brown and Run The Jewels at 8pm at the James Cabaret in Wellington.