EARTHGANG is proving yet again that it’s cut from a different cloth than its Atlantan peers with the release of its newest EP, “Rags.”
Instead of adopting the trap sound that currently dominates the city of Atlanta, Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot take the road less traveled and tap into a funkier Southern vibe. Guided by the spastic narration of DC Young Fly, EARTHGANG provides insight on being young and black in America while using its unique flows to deliver an array of bars.
The opening track, “Meditate,” demonstrates the duo’s impeccable flow and delivery while simultaneously providing its new Dreamville lablemate J.I.D. a space to shine.
J.I.D.’s style and sound match the duo so well that I swear he is the long-lost member of EARTHGANG. Although his verse is short lived, J.I.D. manages to flaunt his ability to lace verses with internal rhymes in the lines “I’m more than a man, not a God, but the boy is a man/ We ignore all the noise from the outlandish/ Standout with the cannon, outstanding, south bandit.”
The transition between J.I.D.’s subtle display of lyricism and the next verse is almost seamless as Johnny Venus glides over the dark and brooding instrumental. Using his quick-paced flow, Johnny illustrates his bleak worldview and speaks on how his skin color causes him to be seen as “lesser,” despite his accomplishments. His angst then takes the form of a catchy hook that reiterates there is no peace to be found for those like him in America.
Doc matches Johnny’s energy while impressively switching flow mid-verse at a pace that is almost hard to follow.
The somber feeling continues over a smoky instrumental on “Nowhere Fast.” Johnny leads again, except this time he raps from the perspective of his dad, who is calling him. His impersonation is not earth shattering, but Johnny’s ability to insert himself in other shoes is still great to see.
Doc’s verse is solid, as he pulls a different flow out his bag and makes use of the same kinds of internal rhymes that J.I.D. uses on “Meditate.”
In fact, it is the duo’s arsenal of flows that manages to make every track feel so fresh.
For instance, its knack for navigating instrumentals saves the song “Red Light.” The song’s instrumental is the most upbeat, but it has a slightly annoying quality to it that is only masked by flow switches from Johnny and Doc. The song also features the only hook I did not feel like Johnny just completely knocked out the park, but again, the verses allowed me to turn a blind eye.
The track “Legendari” serves more or less as the resolution of the album. Backed by the jazzy sound of a saxophone, the duo comes to terms with the problems that hung over its heads in the previous three songs.
Doc summarizes his optimism for better days in the lines “But I don’t care what other people say/ It don’t matter what you think/ It’s important what you’re wilding to know/ Through all the struggles and the pain, I can peep the weather change.” These words coincide well with the advice given in the bridge about not letting current hurdles keep you from a goal you are inches away from crossing.
“Rags” ends on a rather psychedelic note with the song “House,” featuring the Chicagoan emcee Mick Jenkins.
The song has a very chill vibe that makes it feel as though the three artists are floating on the track. While this song features probably my favorite Doc verse on the EP, I have to give the game ball to Mick Jenkins. The guy is just so good with wordplay. The way Jenkins rattles off strings of alliterated lines is akin to some of the best wordsmiths.
The thing that makes the members of EARTHGANG such a great duo is that they are so good at feeding off each other. Despite Johnny Venus performing almost all of the hooks, the album never feels like a lopsided affair due to the fact that Doc more than compensates with his verses. By taking a page from the Outkast school of thought rather than taking the trap music route, EARTHGANG has crafted an EP and career worth watching out for.