If you haven’t heard of EARTHGANG yet, you’re seriously missing out on one of the hottest acts in hip-hop right now. The rap duo from Atlanta is made up of Johnny Venus and Wowgr8 (also commonly referred to as Doctur Dot), and the two are known for their vibrancy and eccentricity, making them exceptional live performers. After seeing them in concert twice, I can confirm that their passion and energy are simply unparalleled.
Since joining the Dreamville roster in 2017, EARTHGANG has skyrocketed in popularity from both their performances on ROTD3 and their Rags/Robots/Royalty EP trilogy. All of this lead up to their major-label debut: Mirrorland. The duo has released full-length albums before Mirrorland, both solo and with the Atlanta-based collective Spillage Village. Mirrorland, however, is their true moment in the spotlight; this is the moment they enter the final frontier.
The album was preceded by a few singles, with the first being an Arin Ray-assisted track called “Stuck.” “Stuck”, a groovy song with a funky beat and plenty of style switch-ups, is a perfect introduction to the group. Venus’s wild vocal melodies and Wowgr8’s ability to skate all over the beat are nothing short of enticing. The second single, “Proud of U,” is a fun and surprisingly heartwarming banger. Accompanied by a Young Thug feature, this song is definitely appreciable, no matter how one may feel about the group. If you like Young Thug’s collaboration with Jamie xx “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”, you should most definitely check this track out.
The third single, “UP,” is a wild ride; Venus’s energy on this song can be felt all the way from Neptune. The single was first premiered as a colors show over a year before the album’s release, and it remains the best episode of the series by a significant margin. With so much vivacity from both members, I think the colors version is a slightly better due to its greater liveliness. And an honorable mention goes to their song “Swivel”, although not a single, which appeared on ROTD3 prior to Mirrorland’s release. “Swivel” shows EARTHGANG at their most subdued and chill state. Despite being a good track, “Swivel” definitely gets a bit overshadowed by all of the craziness on the rest of the album.
The album’s opener, “LaLa Challenge” is a cautionary warning to listeners with wary ears of the world that they are about to step into. However, it also shows a refusal by the duo to hold back any of their quirkiness, including the vocals of a woman ordering chicken against loud and excessive electronic drums.
The third and fourth songs are sure to be some of their most popular tracks. “Top Down” is an incredibly fun and care-free song that is perfect to blast while driving with your windows down in the summer. “Bank”, however, is on the complete other end of the spectrum; it’s a hard-hitting trap anthem about making money. While it is one of my least favorite songs on the album, I will admit Venus’s verse is very impressive.
Some of Mirrorland’s best moments come during the middle of the album with standout tracks “Avenue” and the T-Pain-assisted “Tequila.” “Avenue” is an absolute movie with exquisite production. The intro is woozy and dreamlike but during their verses, the duo sound as if they are trying to navigate a UFO going through turbulence, which is thanks in part to their excellent syncopated flows over the vicious drum pattern. The song ends with Venus singing the chorus over a beautifully delicate piano. The song is nothing short of an experience and my favorite song from the album.
“Tequila” is far-and-away one of the most recognizable tracks for a few reasons. It is written in a 3/4 time signature rather than the much more common 4/4. It is also filled with bright horns and a Latin-inspired beat. Wowgr8 shines on the chorus singing relatable verses like: “Good god, so stressed / Perfect day to drink tequila.” We’ve all been there. Wowgr8, Venus, and T-Pain rap effortlessly over the unique time signature as they lament their problems. The horns that kick in towards the second half of the verses convey washing down their problems with alcohol. To put it straight, “Tequila” is simply intoxicating.
Being a unique hip-hop duo from Atlanta, EARTHGANG draws a lot of parallels to OutKast. One comparable aspect is how they chose to end this album. When OutKast closes an album, the penultimate song feels like the finale while the final song feels like an encore. For example, on Aquemini, the second-to-last song is “Liberation,” a seven-minute-long world song that gives as much time to Cee-Lo Green, Erykah Badu, and Big Rube as it gives to Big Boi and Andre. While it feels like the end to the near-perfect album, it is followed by “Chonkyfire,” which seems less like the album’s end and more like a prelude to their follow-up album, Stankonia.
Mirrorland’s penultimate track is “Fields,” featuring heavy 808’s, sporadic hi-hats, and a beautiful chorus from Malik. The first verse from Wowgr8 is quick and jam-packed, and in my opinion, flawless. Venus begins with a catchy call-and-response before delving into a very lyrical and mesmerizing verse. This song is sure to be amazing when performed live. With almost a minute-and-a-half left in the song, the vocals stop and all that is left is a fading out 808. This feels like it should be the closing track, but it’s not. As I mentioned earlier, Venus and Wowgr8 are incredible performers and they would never miss an encore. In this album, that encore is “Wings”. It’s a catchy tune where they reflect on their past and look forward to their future as they spread their wings. It’s an inspiring note to go out on.
EARTHGANG’s name feels ironic because they sound as if they are not from this planet. With Mirrorland, they have escaped Earth and entered into their frontier. Years of their hard work have paid off into a truly unique masterpiece.
Cover Photo: Neon-Photography.com/Tobias Stoffels