Features: The Alchemist
“Vin Skully” is an introspective track off “The Alchemist, Earl Sweatshirt” where Earl breaks down his journey through life’s trials, tribulations and his own personal growth. Delivered over a haunting beat, the song is an intimate exploration of Earl’s experiences, thoughts, regrets, and resilience. Now let’s dive into the labyrinth of Earl’s lyrical prowess and decode these bars.
The first section of the song, the hook, goes “Big grip, get flipped / Hand over fist, that’s quick / Snake oil salesman with the pitch, that’s slick / Ain’t no tellin’ when it end / No matter the spin, I know when I got a hit / That’s it, that shit get sent over the fence.” Here, Earl uses metaphors of hustling and game strategy to discuss his music career. The “big grip” and how it “gets flipped” refer to his ability to make money and multiply it. The reference to a “snake oil salesman” indicates his status in the industry, where he must navigate the false promises and slick sales pitches of industry figures.
Consider the line, “I remember the cold and shruggin’ ’til I was sore inside the crib.” Earl is reflecting on his past and recalling the times when he was cold, both physically and emotionally, dealing with his issues alone inside his ‘crib,’ a common slang term in hip-hop for home.
In the verse, “Hosin’ down the problem with gin and tonic / How to stay afloat in a bottomless pit / The trick is to stop fallin’,” Earl puts us in the picture of his mental struggles and the means he adopted to numb the pain, namely “gin and tonic.” The “bottomless pit” represents his descent into his problems, with the resolution being to simply “stop fallin’.”
The following lines, “Son of father and death / Big mama with the vision of sorrow, now I know why they wept,” Earl not only gives a shoutout to his parents, but also acknowledges their shared struggles. The ‘weeping’ symbolizing their shared sorrow and hardships.
He continues with the line, “Now we halvin’ like Dewey Cox out in the shed,” a reference to the titular character in the comedic biopic “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. This could speak to Earl seeing his life as a series of dramatic, often comedic, misadventures similar to that of Dewey Cox.
“I had to unify all the plurals in pairs / I promise you don’t truly want no parts of this shit,” Earl is hinting at his journey of unifying his multiple facets of life and identity. The latter part of this bar serves as a warning, perhaps to those aspiring to be in his shoes, indicating that it’s not an easy road.
The second time the hook comes around, Earl switches up the last lines a bit to add, “Now I know what it is / I remember.” These lines show him coming to terms with his past and understanding his experiences. With the wisdom of hindsight, he now sees what was once shrouded in his younger mind.
Finally, the outro, “You know everybody has their different, uh, ways / And what they use ’em for / But we’ll let them explain that to you,” is a clever way of throwing the narrative back to the listener, allowing them to fill in the blanks with their interpretations.
In conclusion, “Vin Skully” is a track that showcases Earl Sweatshirt as a deeply introspective artist, shedding a light on the internal battles he’s been fighting, and how he navigates this chaotic game called life. He doesn’t hold back analyzing the darker recesses of his past, presenting a raw and candid look at his hardships. A strong poetic and metaphorical force marks Earl’s lyrical style, giving his bars a certain depth, making the listener delve into them, not just hear them.