The question of whether you want an MC like Earl Sweatshirt and a producer like The Alchemist to test each other’s limits is on some level an existential one: Like, isn’t the fact that the dreamlike flights of VOIR DIRE feel like comfort food a testament to how much they’ve already stretched our conception of hip-hop? Ten years out from his first “real” album (2013’s Doris), Earl sounds grateful, fulfilled, and yet no less enigmatic than when he was a kid, holding space for a history of Black diasporic art from Martinican poet Aimé Césaire to the Swazi-Xhosa South African pop legend Miriam Makeba without sacrificing the hermetic quality that made him so appealing in the first place. In Vince Staples, he continues to find the straight-talking foil he needs (“The Caliphate,” “Mancala”), and in Al a producer who can nudge him just a little closer to the hallelujahs he’s either too cool or evasive to embrace (“Mancala”). And at 26 minutes, the whole thing easily asks to be played again.

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