There has always been something ethereal about EARTHGANG.
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Buzzing off the success of their impressive debut mixtape, Shallow Graves For Toys, the Atlanta duo's 2015 follow-up, Stray's With Rabies, glued itself to the back of rap's subconscious. It was easy to draw comparisons to OutKast and The Pharcyde, and, thematically, the duo brought a unique and unsettling exploration of the culture of the outer fringes of Atlanta. "Your mind still kinda childish, but you pushin' 6 feet, so mommy's daddy put the shotty to your face at 16," Doctor Dot warbles on "A.W.O.L." as he describes his mom's boyfriend putting a loaded shotgun in his face at 16.
Alternating between stark observations ("I been around killas and good n***** who live independent, the only difference is the depth of your vision") and spoken word poetry ("I'm America's freaky little fantasy, I'm society's dirty obsession, cuz my eyes seeing what the world can't"), EARTHGANG was of a different breed in the over-saturated Atlanta rap scene. Their work caught the attention of J. Cole, who quickly signed them to his astute Dreamville label in 2017 before plastering them all over Revenge of The Dreamers III. The vocal flourishes of Johnny Venus brought diaphanous energy to everything he touched, while Doctor Dot served as the equalizer—with his vibrato and delivery being more in line with an Atlanta hip-hop purist—and perfectly contrasting Venus's unwavering experimentation. Then, their steady momentum suddenly exploded, EARTHGANG became one of 2019's most lauded duos, and their debut, Mirrorland, was one of rap's most highly anticipated fall releases.
"3 a.m. the only time that I can hear myself think," Doctor Dot raps on "This Side." "Why is every waking moment feeling more like a dream?" Mirrorland shows the duo in complete disbelief. They're famous now, at least by rap standards, but does that make them sellouts? "Sometimes I get overwhelmed," Venus admits earlier on "This Side." "I'm in, in over my head, put my life online for sale." Mirrorland, which was inspired by The Wiz, describes the journey to find creative authenticity in the age of quick fame via Tik Tok and streaming. "I got wants, I got needs, I got PTSD," Doctor Dot says almost hysterically on "Avenue." "I got suicidal thoughts beneath these masked fantasies."
"How's your mental? How do you cope with what you been through?" a lover asks Doctor Dot on "Top Down," to which he has no answer. Yet EARTHGANG is happy to share their faults with us. They view their indiscretions as strengths, not weaknesses. "Cause I'm lost don't mean you found," Venus reminds the skeptics on "LaLa Challenge." The duo is no doubt caught in a crisis of faith, with the album title itself indicative of a state of reflection. How can you maintain your humility and creative independence without losing yourself to fame? "I pray for the hunger to be permanent, no matter what that make" Doctor Dot raps on "Swivel." The appeal of EARTHGANG will forever be their authenticity. Now they just need to figure out where to take it.