MUSIC

EARTHGANG Struggles with Fame on "Mirrorland"

The duo gets vulnerable on their newest release.

There has always been something ethereal about EARTHGANG.

EarthGang - Up | A COLORS SHOW www.youtube.com

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.

Mirrorland

Culture Feature

Drew Brees Exemplifies How NOT to Be a White Ally

The quarterback said "I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country." And then he tried to apologize. And only made it worse.

Drew Brees, a man who makes literally millions of dollars for throwing a ball, has come under fire for insensitive comments he made about NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police brutality.

"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," Brees said in the interview with Yahoo Finance. He clarified that this was in part because he envisioned his grandfathers, who fought in World War II, during the National Anthem. He continued, saying, "And is everything right with our country right now? No. It's not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together. We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution."

This isn't the first time Brees made it clear that he cares more for the idea of a make-believe unified America than he does for actual human lives. In 2016, he criticized Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the anthem, saying it was "disrespectful to the American flag" and "an oxymoron" because the flag gave critics the right to speak out in the first place.


Colin Kaepernick Kneeling Colin Kaepernick kneeling in protest of racist police brutality


Of course, the flag's alleged ideals have been proven to only be applicable to wealthy, white men—men like Brees. Sure, his grandfathers did a noble thing when they fought under the US flag during WWII, and no one, including Kaepernick, has ever said that sacrifice isn't worth respecting. Thanks to the sacrifices of many people (including the enslaved Black backs upon which this country was built, including the scores of routinely abused Black soldiers who fought for American lives), America has offered opportunity and peace for many, many people. In particular, Ole' Glory has been very kind to men like Brees: rich, white men who still control the majority of the power and the wealth in the United States.

But what about the rest of us, Drew? What about George Floyd whose neck was crushed by a police officer who kneeled on him so casually that he didn't even take his hand out of his pocket? What about Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot for the crime of being Black and going for a jog? What about Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was murdered by police in her home in the middle of the night for a crime that had nothing to do with her? What about Tony McDade, Drew–have you heard his name? Have you heard about the 38-year-old Black trans man who was gunned down in Florida last week? Do you understand why these people's family's may harbor just a bit of disrespect for your precious flag?

Is it possible for you to realize, Drew, that your wish for "unity" is not a wish for progress, but a wish to maintain the status quo? When you call for unity under the American flag, you're talking about your flag, the flag that represents a long, sordid history of racial oppression and violence. There is no unity where there is no justice. When you say that "we are all in this together," what you're saying is that we all have roles to play in the version of society that has served you so well. For your part, you'll be a rich, white man, and for Black people's part, they'll continue to be victims of state-sanctioned murders– but hopefully more quietly, hopefully in a manner that doesn't make you uncomfortable?

When you say, "We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution," what you mean to say is that POC and their allies are at fault. Sure, you probably agree that Derek Chauvin took it a bit too far, and you probably feel a little self-conscious that he's brought all this "Black rights" stuff up again. But when you say "all," you place blame on the victims who are dying under a broken system. And what, exactly, do you expect POC to do differently, Drew? Ahmaud Arbery was just out jogging, and still he died. George Floyd was just trying to pay a cashier, and still he died. POC and their allies try to peacefully protest by marching in the streets or taking a knee at a football game, and still white people condemn and criticize. Still the police shoot.

After much criticism, Brees did attempt an apology on Instagram, where he posted a hilariously corny stock photo of a Black and white hand clasped together. His caption, though possibly well-intentioned, made it even clearer that his understanding of the movement for Black lives is thoroughly lacking.


Highlights of the "apology" include his immediate attempt to exonerate himself from culpability, claiming that his words were misconstrued, saying of his previous statement: "Those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character." Unfortunately, Drew, white people like you are the "enemy," as you put it, because by default you are at the very least part of the problem. No one is accusing you of being an overt racist, Drew; no one thinks you actively and consciously detest Black people. But your lack of empathy, your apathy, and your unwillingness to unlearn your own biases are precisely what has persisted in the hearts and minds of well-meaning white Americans for centuries.

Next, you say, "I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the Black community in this movement." No, Drew. Just no. Black people don't need white people's savior complexes to interfere in their organizing; what they need is for us to shut up and listen. What they need is for us to get our knees off of their necks.

Finally, you say, "I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy." This, Drew, is suspiciously similar to saying, "But I'm one of the good whites!" The fact of the matter is that feeling the need to prove your allyship is not about helping a movement; it's about feeding your own ego. Not only that, but your emphasis on "ALWAYS" does a pretty good job of making it clear that you don't think you have a racist bone in your body and that you have taken great offense at any accusations to the contrary. I have some news for you, Drew: Every white person is racist. Sure, the levels vary, and while you may not be actively and consciously discriminating against POC, you have been brought up in a racist system, and your implicit biases are as strong as any other white person's. Your job now is to unlearn those biases and confront those subtle prejudices in yourself and in other white people. Maybe the first step in doing so is just shutting your f*cking mouth about kneeling at football games. Maybe you should even consider taking a knee yourself.

For other non-BIPOC trying to be better allies, check out one of these 68+ anti-racism resources.

MUSIC

Fox Stevenson Lets Loose on "Dreamland"

Potent DNB mixed with pulsing rock energy.

Fox Stevenson

Franne Norman

Singer-songwriter and producer Fox Stevenson, formerly Stan SB, drops his new single, "Dreamland," today.

His forthcoming debut album, entitled Killjoy and slated to arrive October 18, features innovative blends of liquid drum and bass, house, and dubstep. "Dreamland" gives us a taste of what's to come, unleashing infectious rhythm rife with DNB dynamics.

A Leeds-based "bedroom" artist, Stevenson performed to a sold-out house last month in Notting Hill, wowing the audience with his fusion of rock and dance, DNB, and dub-flavored music, with filaments of pop-punk and electro-pop relishes mixed in.

"Does everybody live in a Dreamland? / Is this Dreamland all that we know? / Swallowing us up in an avalanche / And blurring these lines with smoke / They tell me that I should be a real man / But my pride will be the first thing to go."

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