In contrast to the album art loaded with references to material wealth, EarthGang’s 2018 EP, Royalty, is filled with bars and sounds that tip-toe near the edges of personal spirituality. Released February 23, the Dreamville cohort’s tape is their third since 2017, standing in stark contrast to last year’s Rags.
Where Rags began with Johnny Venus rapping “Looking for peace in America/ Looking for peace when I stare at ya,” setting the tape’s idealistic tone, Royalty gives the group a top-down perspective. The tonal shift is expected; J. Cole signed the Atlanta duo to his Dreamville label in August 2017, a signing accompanied by a new network of talent with which to collaborate. J.I.D., whose debut album The Never Story was met with critical acclaim, was already a frequent collaborator with the group from his Spillage Village days, but the backing by Cole’s label was the culmination of years of work.
“We’ve been promoting ourselves. We’re from Atlanta. Niggas in Atlanta wasn’t showing us any love,” Johnny Venus said to XXL. “We’ve just been getting it how we live, man.”
Venus and Doctur Dot are certainly getting it. While Royalty isn’t guided by the ultimate sense of triumph that might be expected in a debut album – EarthGang’s debut, Mirrorland, is expected later this year – the duo paints the tape with a positive outlook on yesterday’s struggles.
“Just yesterday, I had everything/ Everything was nothing, but I ain’t complain,” is how Dot chooses to grace the hook on “Build”, signaling a fondness for the come up. Even the skits, three of which bisect the EP’s five tracks, make use of EarthGang’s grind. On “Skit 2” a fan voiced by DC Young Fly shares his excitement that he’s rocking with EarthGang. “Ayy, can I be a part of EarthGang?” he asks, only to be met with denial. But much like the gang themselves, Fly’s only encouraged to start his own thing, maybe called “PlanetGang”, inspired by Venus and Dot’s DIY approach to success.
Ahead of their debut Mirrorland, EarthGang has built an extensive discography, giving their growing fanbase something of a time capsule to listen to. From their Spillage Village days to a pickup from Cole, EarthGang is building their soul-laden sound by speaking their success into existence.
Royalty is available to stream and purchase today.