Atlanta duo Earthgang have become one of the most beloved acts in hiphop today. Olu and WowGr8 (perhaps better known as Johnny Venus and Doctor Dot) are cornerstones of the Dreamville label and represent a fun, conscious take on the Southern sound which is all too rare these days. Their 2019 LP Mirrorland was a breakthrough, justifiably making this follow up so highly anticipated. Rather than leaning further into the poppy vibes that worked so well, they instead go for something more epic and thought provoking this time without sacrificing personality.
Got so many memories that I made on Cascade Road
This is God given, so I thank Her as I go
This gon’ sound conceited, but I know, I know, I know
N—-s crazy, think they fuckin with me
The title track on Ghetto Gods starts things off with a bang. Venus opens with a booming, melodic intro over some deep drums and horns. His verse is particularly strong and personal, breaking off into a croon while discussing how different life is now compared to his come up. Dot slides right in with a more traditional flow; It’s this contrast which makes Earthgang such a strong duo. Venus brings some real charisma and energy with his erratic, Young Thug like delivery, while Dot is more of a traditional spitter.
The next track is “Billi”, which has a deep, yet bouncy, video game type beat. The hook is catchy and might seem simple or ignorant at first, but the verses reveal some deeper musings on how everyone wants to make that bag and get up out the mud, as well as how they can give back after. Future continues a crazy year of features as he floats over a soulful beat switch. There’s also “Waterboyz”, marking a strong opening run for Ghetto Gods. This is a Dreamville posse cut, where JID arguably steals the show among a strong roster of MCs. Slower, funky production gives everyone a dope platform to play with their flows and vibe on the hook. The patriarch Cole obviously shows out as well, even calling out memes about him looking frumpy.
It can be noted at this point that Ghetto Gods is a bit of a return to the style of Earthgang’s EP’s. The poppy, sticky hooks of Mirrorland are not nearly as noticeable here; Rather, they are focused on their energy and concepts. While some of it might blend together and be less memorable as a result, each individual listening experience is still very fulfilling. Skits also help to round out the project. Meanwhile, Musiq Soulchild delivers a cathartic hook on “Amen” and the boys bring some of the most powerful verses of their career, speaking on everything from frustration with hatred to making it in the business. “All Eyez on Me” is a standout track as well. Over a mellow trap beat, Dot brings poignant lyrics speaking on the conditions of the ghetto. Some other tracks in the middle of the album blend together a bit, but Baby Tate’s verse on “Black Pearls” about body acceptance is a shining moment.
I must be one of the lucky ones, graded
So-so credit, live life lightheaded
I’m the madness to the method, man
From a place without no Wu-Tang Clan
But we got Ku Klux Klans all up through there, hustle all we do here
As the album wraps up, there are notable features from the legendary CeeLo Green and label mate Ari Lennox. “Strong Friends” is a powerful record, touching on mental health in the black community and how we need to look out for each other. Much of the album, however, builds to the song “American Horror Story”. This one is an interesting concept, exploring the history of injustices the nation has perpetrated and the hate we see to this day: From colonization and slavery, to gentrification and marginalization. There were hints at these themes throughout other tracks, and the duo proves that the hardships only make them stronger; They have been granted this gift and voice to make things better. Overall, Ghetto Gods is a strong entry in Earthgang’s discography and continues their artistic growth. While it might not have as many fun moments as their past work, they make a strong statement here with plenty of quirky, southern flavor.