Earl is notable for its depraved and violent lyrics, which detail the fictional misadventures of the young Earl Sweatshirt, as he commits acts of murder, rape, kidnapping, and violence. The album features production by BrandenBeatBoy (credited as BeatBoy) and fellow Odd Future members Tyler, The Creator and Left Brain. The album features vocals from Tyler, The Creator, Vince Staples, Hodgy Beats, and some backing vocals from fellow Odd Future members Syd Tha Kyd and Taco Bennett. The lyrics featured on the album were written and recorded in 2009-2010, when Earl was 15–16 years old. The content present throughout the album includes various drug references, macabre themes of murder, rape and sexual lyrics.
Earl was met with much interest and critical acclaim on the web, upon its release. The tape also garnered rave reviews from music critics. Pitchfork Media called the album "mesmerizing". Pitchfork's sister site Altered Zones listed Earl as one of their top twenty albums of 2010, praising the album for its ferocity and for making "some of the most vile verses sound eloquent". Music site Gorilla vs. Bear listed it at number 12 in its list of the 30 best albums of 2010. Complex magazine rated Earl as the twenty-fourth best album of 2010.