Dedicated EarthGang Mirror country, their first major label, with many Atlanta sounds. Staging their hometown’s rich musical heritage in the form of a wacky carnival, Olu and WowGr8 fused the drum lines of Battle of the Bands and the funk of Dungeon Family, trap bounce and call and Sunday service response. This tentpole approach sometimes obscured the two people running the circus, but it allowed EarthGang to showcase their many influences and present greater Atlanta – a sprawling metropolis often described as heavy and fractured – as a unified whole. This commitment to capturing all aspects of their homeland continues on the follow-up GHETTO GODS, a portrait of Atlanta centered on the city’s inhabitants. But even in this more intimate setting, EarthGang still struggles to personalize its homages to its beloved home.
The lack of live shows at the start of the pandemic helped recalibrate EarthGang’s relationship with the city. They used to think that touring and performing in Atlanta was the best way to support him. “But really, being back home gave us a chance to be there, to answer phone calls, to stop people, to check on our little cousins,” Olu said in an interview last year. This heightened sense of presence guides EarthGang as they navigate a plague-ridden Atlanta. Amidst the surrounding despair and uncertainty, they discover a new appreciation for the quiet comfort of family and community.
A lot of GHETTO GODS spotlights EarthGang’s parents, friends, and peers, portraying them as neglected gods. The title track combines triumphant horns with respectful references to Olu’s mother and WowGr8’s grandfather. On “Lie to Me,” a psychedelic synth loop floats as drifting influencers and ballers twist their ways. “American Horror Story” explores the lingering impact of the Middle Passage on black families. EarthGang’s superficial storytelling tends to make these individuals feel more like census data points than deities – especially women, who tend to be sex objects, generic muses (“Black Pearls ”) or transient vocals peripheral to the music (“Jeans Interlude,” “Neezy’s Walk”). But everyone belongs.
When EarthGang speaks directly to the people they aim to honor, they take flight. “Strong Friends” offers sanctuary to devotees who are rarely blessed with vulnerability. “Check your loud friends / How you doing, my nigga? / I’m here if you wanna talk,” WowGr8 croons over a bluesy beat, the feeling simple yet sharp. “Eyes On Me” is equally casual, venting frustrations about rap money failing to raise distressed friends and relatives. The loose, airy beat, reminiscent of DJ Ayo’s brooding work on Polo G’s die a legendgives EarthGang plenty of room to clear his head and find his words.
The rap on GHETTO GODS features less filler and empty staging than previous EarthGang releases, but their writing remains anonymous. Their lyrics are rarely as expressive as their modular flows, which easily turn into light melodies or bouncy triplets. Nor are they externally in competition with each other. Their verses tend to be nearly symmetrical in length and emphasis. The two are familiar enough with songwriting best practices to make their music work structurally, but with every guest rapper (barring a rambling CeeLo) outclassing them, it’s hard to ignore the little things. happening in the verses of Olu and WowGr8. Even when rapping with purpose, they fail to deliver distinctive turns of phrase or convey a unique perspective, which is ironic given their constant promotion of Atlanta as the city of a million misfits. . Their love for their home is palpable, but there’s a difference between flying a flag and weaving one.