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EARTHGANG’s fresh hip-hop style shines on ‘Royalty’ EP

| Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Cristina Interiano | The Observer

When the Atlanta music scene is mentioned, it often conjures up familiar images — Gucci Mane as the East Atlanta Santa, the cover for Migos’ “Culture” or Future’s blonde-dyed dreadlocks. The Atlanta sound that has skyrocketed in popularity is one of trap rappers and bass-heavy beats. However, this has not always been the Atlanta sound. New talent is emerging from the southern city that challenges the current status quo, most notably the group known as EARTHGANG.

EARTHGANG is less of a gang and more of a duo. Atlanta MCs Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot joined forces to deliver killer verses and creative tracks, and thus far, they have succeeded. After releasing a couple of projects as a part of the collective Spillage Village, the lively pair signed with J. Cole’s Dreamville Records.

Since inking a deal, the terrific twosome has released a trilogy of EPs titled “Rags,” “Robots” and “Royalty.” The latter and most recent of the three projects best conveys EARTHGANG’s hip-hop style and samples all that the duo has to offer.

“I’m the latest phenomenon you should be hip to / Bandwagon seats goin’ extinct” states Doctur Dot on the first line of the project’s first track, “Cocktail.” The lead single proves that EARTHGANG’s Doctur Dot and Johnny Venus are not your typical Atlanta rappers. The two lyricists drop tantalizing verses over a relatively simple beat that is highlighted by a shouting trumpet. Despite lacking a substantial chorus, “Cocktail” kicks the EP off with an excellent example of EARTHGANG’s funky style. The first track is followed up by the first of the three skits on “Royalty.”

The three one-minute long skits star DC Young Fly as he tells the story of a taxi driver taking the EARTHGANG rappers for a ride. In the first skit, the taxi driver asks about EARTHGANG’s destination, a place called “Mirrorland,” which is, not coincidentally, the name of the duo’s forthcoming full-length album.

After rolling around and getting inebriated with Doctur Dot and Johnny Venus on skits two and three, DC Young Fly drops the team off at their destination, which is depicted on the EP’s cover: an elaborate cartoon drawing of EARTHGANG arriving in a smoke-filled car to meet Dreamville captain J. Cole.

The award for best verse on the project goes to Doctur Dot on the track “Build.” After serving up a lazy and drawn out chorus, Doctur Dot speeds up his tempo and speech while dropping bars. The quick and upbeat “Build” sharply contrasts with the subsequent track, “Nothing But the Best.” Dreamville singer Ari Lennox joins the mix on the EP’s third song and provides an exceptionally smooth chorus that slows down the project’s tempo.

On the two concluding tracks, “Off the Lot” and “LOLSMH,” EARTHGANG shows its ability to handle slower beats. Doctur Dot and Johnny Venus go duet for the relaxed chorus on “Off the Lot” — a track which also features frequent collaborator Mereba. “LOLSMH” finishes the EP off on a somber note, as Doctur Dot laments about the constant struggles he faces, and Johnny Venus delivers an extended outro.

“Royalty” captures EARTHGANG’s versatility as a duo. Both rappers handle their own on upbeat hip-hop tracks “Cocktail” and “Build” that are reminiscent of the infamous Atlanta duo Outkast. Soon after these bouncy tracks, the terrific twosome manages to slow things down with “Off the Lot” and “LOLSMH.” EARTHGANG’s ability to deliver captivating songs at both tempos makes for an excellent EP and hopefully an excellent album someday soon.


Album: “Royalty”

Label: Dreamville

Favorite Track: “Cocktail,” “Nothing But the Best”

If you like: J.I.D., Isaiah Rashad, J. Cole

Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5

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