Max Bell once watched several Asher Roth videos in a row. 

If you remember Earl’s introduction, you’ve always known — he was taught to take your rations and guzzle them. But time changes all rappers. The Asher Roth vids have buffered. The dust from the initial tornado-like Odd Future hype cycle has settled. Earl left the country, came back, and dropped his major label debut on Columbia. He toured the world, became a “DJ“, and this weekend he’ll perform at the third annual OF Carnival. In other words, he’s experienced more exposure/success than most rappers will in an entire career — he’s made it out of the maze. Thankfully, he hasn’t lost the hunger, the insatiable thirst for mic supremacy.

For evidence, see “45,” the (roughly) minute long track he recently dropped via Twitter with the caption: “Alchemist / Swampman.”

The cognoscenti have long agreed that Alchemist’s Santa Monica studio is the nexus of the rap universe for the blunted who believe in smashing your brain with your nose bone. Thus, it’s highly likely Alchemist was behind the boards. The strings are sinister, the jazz bubbles beneath them, and the crackle of dust filled grooves culled from deep crates are all the percussion needed. This is the kind of carefully constructed minimalism that comes with age, practice, and pound of Girl Scout Cookies.

Earl trades the dead-eyed monotone for energetic baritone barbarism. The drought plaguing California’s annual summer is real, but so is the drought of veridical rap talent in 2014. He knows this and the anger has surfaced. Maybe ‘Swampman’ is an alter ego, his attempt to crib from the career arc of one former KMD rapper turned metal faced villain — look at the artwork and the Nardwuar interview — maybe it’s not. Some claim that this isn’t a song at all, but Earl sets his own pace. I’ll listen to this three times before I listen to all three minutes of “6 God” again.

Call “45” what you will, but it both smacks of Earl’s past and somehow displays his growth. He’s up fifty and has learned from the fumbles, still playing the game like he’s down five. He was taught well.

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