Keorapetse Kgositsile – South African poet and father of Earl Sweatshirt –passed away Wednesday. (Jan. 3) According to reports, he was 79-years-old.
Similar to his son, Kgositsile was a prolific writer who gained fame in his home country as an Anti-Apartheid journalist and poet. But because of his growing popularity and involvement with The African National Congress, in 1961 Kgositile was exiled from South Africa for 29 years, yet this estrangement only aided in his prominence.
Being heavily influenced by the “African-American aesthetic,” Kgositsile used exile in America to create works like Spirits Unchained and The Gods Wrote that aided in the fall of Apartheid, leading to his return to South Africa where he became the country’s poet laureate in 2006.
Outside of his radicalism, Kgositsile fathered three children including Thebe Neruda Kgositsile aka Earl Sweatshirt. But with Kgositsile leaving Earl’s mother when Earl was 8-years-old paired with his commitment to activism, a strained relationship developed between the poet and the rapper, one they both addressed.
In his 2012 song “Chum,” Earl touches on his feelings towards his father. “It’s probably been 12 years since my father left my fatherless,” Earl rapped before adding, “And I used to say I hate him in a dishonest jest / When honestly I miss this n***a.”
Although Kgositsile sings praises of his son in his 2002 poem “Rejoice,” in 2011 he told The New Yorker that he does not listen to Earl’s music because he will not “impose” on Earl’s work and life simply because his son is famous.
However, these differences can be cast off as some of Earl’s “teenage angst.” As fans of Earl and other Odd Future artists can see that as they matured emotionally so did their music, and with Earl dedicating projects like Solace to his mother following their differences, one can assume that he might have found unpublicized peace with his father, something that may provide a bit of comfort for Earl in this extremely difficult time.