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Stop Sleeping On Earthgang

In case you’ve been snoozing on the duo, here’s a slap back to reality.

Earthgang is Atlanta’s newest humble offering to the ever-growing genre of “conscious rap.” When I first heard them in my friend’s apartment, we played the video for” Missed Calls,” a song off of their album Strays with Rabies. I recall being shocked at how well done the song and video were and immediately looking them up and downloading all of their music.

The duo, Doctor Dot & Johnny Venus, have released three full-length albums and more recently two EP’s titled Rags and Robots, respectively.

They had been consistently laying down bars for years (and years) with little mainstream recognition; however, they were recently signed to J Cole’s Dreamville records—a step in the right direction for Cole’s creative vision. One of the duo’s strengths is storytelling, which is apparent given their knack for creating real albums. Every project released by Earthgang is cohesive; pulling the listener in with storylines, vivid imagery, and some of the most intricate, unique rapping styles of this generation.

The Rags EP begins with the haunting instrumental on “Meditate” coupled with a dense verse by J.I.D. and Earthgang’s bone-chilling lyrics. This particular song brings the duo to the heart of conscious rap by directly referencing the dark state of American politics, something often discussed by Earthgang but rarely called by name.

The video for this song is like a feature-length documentary, but the most striking scene is Johnny Venus rapping while swinging from an American flag turned noose. It is a need to watch video.

The EP then swiftly takes a lighter turn back to the duo’s niche with some skits, trap beats, and robust features from Childish Major and Mick Jenkins. The best thing about this EP is that no matter what beat the two are thrown into it always sounds like they spent weeks perfecting it with airtight lyrics. Even faster trap beats are filled to the brim (and I mean filled) with their quick, raspy, and sonically unique lyricism.

The Robots EP starts with a skit and quickly falls into the first track, 
”Artificial,” an ode to the EP’s questioning of consciousness and emotion, hence “Robots.” The title track in all-caps has a clunky machine-like sound that makes the listener feel like they’re in a creepy factory surrounded by artificial intelligence. The duo comes in with some singing, but mostly they’re spitting bars, and with machine-like precision. The next track has a strong feature from TDE’s SiR on a three-minute beat that bridges the gap between the EP’s bangers and vibe-ers. The last songs are beautiful R&B/rap runoff that would easily get lost and left behind during a night out, but rediscovered at the end of a playlist after coming home and plopping on the couch.

While the success of the album rests on the simplicity of its fantastic sound, the rappers are writing for those who read more in-depth into the lyrics. Robots is a journey to and from consciousness with more meaning and rhythm in its six tracks than the last albums I’ve heard put together. Every track is completely oversaturated with lyrical depth and gritty rapping which makes Earthgang so playable; you always find something new and beautiful in their verses that easily could have been lost in the mix.

Their upcoming EP Royalty drops February 16.

Currently obtaining my undergrad for Film & Media Studies in beautiful Tampa Bay Florida, I love hiking, biking, rock climbing, surfing, and most importantly: hip hop. My favorite rapper is MF DOOM and my top writer is Hunter S. Thompson.
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#IndieSpotlight: MusicbyKO “Life In Element” Is The Soundtrack For Pre-Fall Blues

A new LP floated across my desk by an Oakland, California, singer/rapper named MusicbyKO. A warm blend of jazzy 90s…

A new LP floated across my desk by an Oakland, California, singer/rapper named MusicbyKO. A warm blend of jazzy 90s Hip Hop and a cadence reminiscent of acts like Isaiah Rashad. Having shared stages with names like J.I.D. and Earthgang, he appears focused and composed — as evidenced by Life In Element, his new LP.


 
With a very consistent sound, KO slowly unravels a series of tracks that let you into his world just enough — without blatant TMI, or inducing a “yeah right” effect. What listeners get are the tales of a low-level drug dealer (this is both referenced and downplayed at different points), who is taking a chance on a dream, as he slowly but surely uncovers that everything the glimmers isn’t gold, and just because someone calls you brother, it doesn’t mean they have your back — or at the very least even your best interests at heart.

It’s an almost paranoid sense that snakes are roaming the grass that is revisited numerous times throughout the project, like on the song “La La Land,” “Empathy,” and “Let Me Talk With Ya/While I’m Here,” where he notes “I Know niggas right now that want to see me fall.”

He also paints a picture of himself as someone who overextends himself — such as on “Too Much Falls Short,” where he preaches that failing to leave your comfort zone is a fail before even leaving the running block.

That’s just the first few layers of this project; touching on socio-economic issues facing the black community nationwide, and even relationships (see the super dope “Spirit Rise”), he creates a lot of depth. Though the vibe is consistent — almost bordering on redundant — it manages to remain engaging. Also, that instrumental on “A Devil’s Advocate Corner” is a bucket of flame emojis doused in gasoline.

 
Like a bride on her wedding day, Life In Element is something old and something new; all that Hip Hop is dead shit goes out teh window when you hear younger cats with cohesive projects like this. With enough amazing quotables to create a success Instagram daily quote account (“I couldn’t heal in eth place I got sicker”) and an admirable ear for production, MusicbyKO NEEDS to be on your radar. It’s just good for the soul.

Early.

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Video Spotlight: Mean Joe Scheme & Optiks

In this video spotlight, Joe and Optiks discuss the new project, the state of east coast hip-hop, and what to expect from BEAMS. Be sure to check out both singles below, and follow @meanjoescheme and @thisisoptiks on your socials.

NYC artists Mean Joe Scheme and Optiks are putting the finishing touches on BEAMS, their new collaborative project. If “Cannonball” and “Hands Down” are any indication, we’re in for a viscous slice of hybrid hip-hop- a fusion of beats, rhymes, and anxious 2018 energy.

In this video spotlight, Joe and Optiks discuss the new project, the state of east coast hip-hop, and what to expect from BEAMS. Be sure to check out both singles below, and follow @meanjoescheme and @thisisoptiks on your socials.

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Eminem: Kamikaze- A Relapse of Epic Proportion

Poor Eminem. He’s damned if he do and damned if he don’t. His last album, 2017’s pop-heavy Revival, flopped by…

Poor Eminem. He’s damned if he do and damned if he don’t. His last album, 2017’s pop-heavy Revival, flopped by way of social media yet wasn’t a total disaster. It moved units and afforded him headlining spots on the summer festival circuit- but it didn’t give the fans what they needed. Or did it?

This conundrum surrounds Eminem’s career. When he’s on there’s only a handful of rappers alive who can compete with his pen and his fury. But when he bogs down projects with introspection- giving us a break from his hyper-aggro screaming at the mic- it feels like we’ve been cheated. Stans can’t deal with the sappy pop-crossovers, and today’s charts simply do not have space for good old-fashioned rap acrobatics. So what’s an aging top-five-dead-or-alive rapper to do?

Marshall Mathers unleashed Kamikaze as his response to the Twitter army (and critics) who condemned him- an unexpected and venomous (although carefully measured) surprise album packed with more syllables than a semester’s worth of English-as-a-second language classes. As we all secretly hoped for, rappers ain’t safe from Em’s verbal barrage of double and triple time bars on Kamikaze, and if you have time to unpack these 13 tracks you’ll find some genuine heat.

Unfortunately, if you really unpack these ferocious bars you’ll find a grumpy old man rapping for the simple sake of reminding us how technically skilled he truly is. The problem is we’ve known that for ages. Reverting back to early 2000’s Eminem complete with the use of “faggot”- his favorite homophobic slur on the otherwise bulletproof “Fall”- does little to contribute to his relevance in 2018.

There are a few maniac standouts on Kamikaze, songs that young rappers should study for the intricate art of word play and cadence (check “The Ringer”, and “Not Alike” featuring Royce Da 5’9). Yet, those lessons are harder to learn when it’s impossible for the listener to catch their breath. For most of the record, Em is in such rapid-fire mode that you absolutely have to run back verses and entire songs to truly digest his messages. Rap nerds and old heads will revel in the task, but is that what the game needs these days? I’d argue no

Kamikaze is a rare full-on barrage of supernatural MC’ing; but it comes and goes without much meaning when the target becomes Machine Gun Kelly-who tweeted about Eminem’s attractive daughter back in 2012. Is there really a hip-hop fan alive willing to side with MGK on this one? And if you’re looking for the most lukewarm, mediocre diss track (possibly ever recorded) check out MGK’s response, “Rap Devil”, a headscratcher that splits its time attempting to discredit Em while simultaneously praising his longevity and abilities. You either want the smoke or you don’t? Like it or not, the whole thing feels like a charade.

Eminem has always carried a chip on his shoulder. When the critics go low, he goes lower. While Kamikaze is far from a low point in what will be viewed someday as a catalog of studio hits and misses, it’s far from the return to form that it was intended to be. He might not be afraid to take a stand, but it’s become tiring trying to figure out exactly who Eminem is standing against.

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#IndieSpotlight: Noah Wright Is Back With His Latest Visual “Cameras”

Noah Wright is on a run with his latest visual, “Cameras,” and we’re here for it!

27-year-old American Cedar Rapids MC Noah Wright is back with another super dope video treatment. First popping onto our radar back in March with his short film “Valley of the Sun” — and with his super dope LP Love, Noah. From opening for Rakim, Rick Ross, Futuristic and working with Young Money’s very own Cory Gunz, he’s definitely on a run, and we’re here for it.

Relevant: Check out our March 2018 Noah Wright feature

His latest video for his sure-shot single “Cameras” is next level creative. It begins with a plot reminiscent of the iconic episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air when Will and Buddy were trying to be in the BBD video being shot while Phil and Viv were away. In this video, the cleaner keeps trying to be in the shot, interrupting the shoot to the point that Noah storms off. That’s the opening skit, though. As the actual video kicks off, we’re introduced to gorgeous models, a luxury car, and that same interrupting cleaner is playing out a virtual reality plotline that eventually intertwines with his performance shots.

It’s the type of creativity we’ve come to expect from Noah who’s been dropping some fire lately. The short and sweet “El Chapo,” which he dropped back in June, and the intensely powerful visual for “No Room” have been building his profile — his quality is next level.

Check out “Cameras” above, and be sure to follow Noah via Twitter.

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