Since 2019, the Alchemist has been taunting his followers with claims that he and Earl Sweatshirt existed on YouTube under a fake name and that the two had been releasing music right under the noses of listeners. Anticipation was high as eager fans awaited for the two to publicly release their collaboration. The highly awaited release of what would become “Voir Dire” (2023) was fueled by the games that Sweatshirt and the Alchemist played, as they provided fans with clues regarding the release of their album. Sweatshirt even slyly stated how “It doesn’t seem like people came close to finding it.”
Earlier this year, in August, a link was posted on Gala Music’s website that highlighted various daily puzzles. These puzzles disclosed clues about when the album would be released. One of these clues was a tweet of the English translation of “Voir Dire” (translating to “speak the truth”). To heighten the anticipation, Sweatshirt later posted a photo of a tracklist for the album. After the long wait, “Voir Dire” was available for streaming on Gala’s Website on Aug. 25, and finally, on Oct. 6, the album was released on streaming platforms. But what made these two artists decide to work together on such a strange and cryptic project?
When asked about when the content of their album was created, Sweatshirt stated that the album features tracks from a month before the release as well as from five years before, referencing how long this collaboration was in the works. On the subject of the free release on Gala Music’s website, both Sweatshirt and the Alchemist emphasized the importance of accessibility for fans. Sweatshirt in particular talked about the way in which the album was free on Gala’s site, but also that many fans were so heavily reliant on Spotify and other mainstream streaming services that they failed to utilize this. The Alchemist added that they were never trying to “defeat” the streaming services and how it “was more of a clever way to roll out a project and get some engagement with the ones who’ve been looking for this for two years. It was like a soft open for the super fans.” The decision to release their album on Gala Music was powerful in the sense that it strayed from the mainstream releases and contributed to the mystery and the hunt for the album. The spirit of this kind of initiative and of the album can be found in the two artists who made it.
Thebe Kgositsile, known professionally as Earl Sweatshirt, is a rising rap star. After beginning his rap career in 2008 on MySpace, he joined the hip hop collective known as Odd Future in 2009 after being invited by Tyler, The Creator. “Earl” (2010), his debut mixtape, was released on March 31, 2010, and fully kick-started his solo career. This would eventually lead to him working with and befriending one of the most prolific producers in music today.
The Alchemist, meanwhile, has had a successful career as a producer. Born in Beverly Hills as Alan Maman, he had a brief career as a member of a hip hop duo known as The Whooliganz. Marman then shifted his work to concentrate on record producing, DJing and rapping. From there, Alan began producing tracks for the group Dilated Peoples, which helped with his promotion and led to him working for artists such as Snoop Dogg and Nas.
The album itself sees the Alchemist’s vibrant tempos mixed with Sweatshirt’s seemingly effortless wordplay to bring something refreshing to the table. Some highlights include “Vin Skully” (2023), which boasts thoughtful, evocative lyrics, and “Mancala” (2023), which incorporates gospel vocals and features Vince Staples. The build up to the “Voir Dire” release was deemed worth it by many fans, as Sweatshirt’s lyrical vibrancy paired with the Alchemist’s tracks leave most listeners satisfied.