After disappearing 19 months ago, just as rap collective Odd Future began to build buzz and Tyler the Creator became a celebrity, Thebe Kgositsile, known to the world by his stage name, Earl Sweatshirt, announced his return to the U.S. and the rap game on Feb. 8 via a newly created twitter account and a corresponding, untouched Tumblr page.
Like the Joker in a Batman movie, Earl rode back into town and aired a short 30 second YouTube video in which he laid out his demands, speaking from behind a transparent cartoon face with gigantic lips.
If you want the whole thing give me 50 thousand [followers] by today, Earl said. And if you don't want the whole thing then it's not that big of a deal.
Three hours later Earl had his 50 thousand followers, and a few moments later he tweeted the link to his new site, Terttlefer.com a single empty page with a green background where fans could stream the audio for Earl's new song, Home. The website also offers the option of signing up, either by creating an account or through a previously existing Facebook, twitter, Google+ or Yahoo account and correctly answering the question Where has Early Been for the last 19 Months? Answer: Samoa.
While his fans wait for the next bit of news from Earl here are five things you should know about the 17-year old rapper who may become Hip Hop's newest star now that he's back home.
1. He spent the last 19 months at the Coral Reef Academy in Samoa. The rumors that Earl's Mom, after hearing his highly offensive rap lyrics, sent him to military school are untrue. The young rapper has been enrolled in a therapeutic program for troubled young men. Located in a tropical paradise, according to the program's website, the school offers a contrast to the overwhelming life of the developed world by immersing its students in the community centric lifestyle of local Samoans.
The internet first discovered Earl's whereabouts after nine artist volunteers from the Alternative Intervention Models program travelled to Samoa to work with Earl, who they reported was doing just fine and had embarked on a journey of maturation, imagination and hip-hop dreams.
2. Despite his subversive lyrical content Earl is in real life a thoughtful, sincere young man. His self-titled single and accompanying music video, which has over a ten million views on YouTube, is so offensive and innapropriate that it borders on parody. However, when New Yorker reporter Kelefa Sanneh set out to track down Earl she was able to make contact with him by email. When asked if he missed his home Earl wrote back, I miss home. I don't have any definite date though. Even if I did I don't know if I'd tell you. You'll hear from me without a doubt when I'm ready.
3. His Dad is a famous South African Poet. Keorapetse William Kgosisile is a poet and political activist. He took part in the fight against apartheid, writing for the politically charged newspaper New Age, and lived in exile in the United States from 1962 to 1975 and graduated from Columbia University with a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing. During this time he studied African-American culture and literature extensively and developed an interest in jazz. He became a central figure among African-American poets and was known for his readings at New York City jazz clubs. He returned to his homeland in 1990 after 29 years in exile following the end of apartheid.
4. His fans hate his mom with a passion. Earl's disappearance was blamed on his mother, and rumor's quickly circulated that she had sent her 15-year old son off to military school or worse after hearing his rap music. In his emails with New Yorker reporter Kelefka Sennah, Earl thanked his fans for rallying around the Free Earl campaign but noted that his fans were putting the blame on his family and worried that his mother might be in danger.
The only thing I need right now is space. I've still got work to do and don't need the additional stress of fearing for my family's physical well-being, Earl wrote in an email to Sennah. Space means no more 'Free Earl.'
5. He may not actually be back. There's no proof so far that Earl is actually back home in California beyond a handful of tweets and a short YouTube video. Until we get some photographic evidence that Earl has returned home there will be no way to know amidst the endless internet hype around him. And even if Earl Sweatshirt has made his triumphant return he may not immediately dive back into rapping. According to the members of Alternative he will finish high school before launching the next phase of his widely anticipated rap career.