By Stephanie Hyde | April 4, 2022
Photo Credit Creative Commons (Olu pictured left, WowGr8 on the right)
On February 25th, 2022, Earthgang, the Atlanta hip hop duo of Olu (aka Johnny Venus) and WowGr8 (aka Doctur Dot) released their second studio album, “Ghetto Gods.” It is a transformative experience of the highs and lows of being Black in America. Earthgang presents the album in a digestible way that allows others to empathize with their experiences. Earthgang’s introspective focus on observing the world around them makes the need for “Ghetto Gods” to be a top album by the end of the year.
Six skits break up the album into an immersive experience that provides context before transitioning into a new theme. Atlanta rapper, 2 Chainz starts off the album with the opening interlude titled “The Glow.” Authoritatively, he explains that a Ghetto God understands their worth even without coming from the best circumstances. But a person who embraces their adverse circumstances makes them even more unique. The skit segues into the next track “Ghetto Gods” where Olu and WowGr8 acknowledge their achievements despite adverse circumstances.
Olu raps “I'm from the ghetto, baby, seen bodies in the street 'fore I could tweet/ I came from nothin', I turned a mustard seed into a million, end of discussion” showing his evolution. WowGr8 emphasizes that his life is “'bout legacy, what lies ahead of me” recognizing that life is more about what we leave behind with our time on earth.
“Waterboyz” is the next standout that features exemplary lyricism from Earthgang with assists from JID and J. Cole. Even with four artists over a five-minute duration, everyone holds their own ground. The main theme of the song is the fine line between rags to riches and how easy it is to fall back to where you started. WowGr8 best describes it as “Waterboy hustle til the whole world drownin” while J. Cole raps in a matter-of-fact way “These n***** look rich but they broke, got me playin poor/ Please don’t get it f***ed up from this homeless aesthetic” acknowledging that it’s not how you look but what you do.
“American Horror Story” by Earthgang
Earthgang focuses on the need for companionship with the skit “Hey Boo” which transitions into the next song “Amen.” In the skit, Olu pleads about being tired of the same fleeting girls and wants to experience love with longevity. “Amen” features R&B heavyweight Musiq Soulchild as he soulfully croons “Get down on your knees for me if you really love me if you really need me.” As society continues to fall towards superficial tendencies, this song takes a more honest approach of looking past looks to find someone that will be down for you, no matter what. Olu opens the track singing “I need devotion/ I need attention/ someone to prove to me you’re different.”
With so many negative stereotypes surrounding Black women, Earthgang takes an untraditional approach by using the stigma to empower “Black Pearls.” In the opening verse, Olu raps “Media sellin' fibs, tellin' false narratives/ 'Bout our mamas, 'bout our sisters, aunties, daughters, nieces, ribs/ Fat ass, thick thighs, hyper-sexualized/ Lap dance, pole slides, only thing she got to give.” There is nothing shocking about this verse as society continues to not lend black women as much grace or forgiveness in many needed scenarios. With Yung Baby Tate as a feature, she amplifies the choice for Black women to own their freedom in how they want to live with her cutthroat verse, “If I take a shot at the club, put a shot in my butt/ That's the only way they'll give me a shot/ So what the f*** I'm 'posed to do about it?”
The following songs transition into a darker theme as the next skit “Neezy’s Walk,” brings to life a shocking reality featuring Lynae Vanee. With a jarring spoken word, Vanee preaches about the hardship of being a Black woman as “Having a body to defend, but a body not allowed to fight/ Cause that body is already a disciplinary action infraction.”
Next, “American Horror Story” depicts the shocking reality of being Black in America with everyday experiences that have lasting repercussions. The song takes listeners through themes of gentrification, generational curses, and education as Olu sings the chorus “Talk to me now, speak loud and clear/ Where would I be if I was not here/ American Horror Story” along with other poignant lyrics. WowGr8 raps his unapologetic truth, with his standout verse “Some of yall n***** so woke it’s ironic/ You really be ignorant cause of your knowledge/ Look down on your brother ‘cause he went to college.” Knowledge is more powerful as a tool to educate towards progress than to belittle those who don’t have it.
Next up is “Power” which tops off a four-song run by focusing on empowerment. The goosebump-inducing song focuses on reclaiming and recognizing collective Black power to change society. With features from Nick Cannon and CeeLo Green, the song is about how Nick Cannon was fired from Wild N Out for his anti-Semitic comments and demanded ownership of the show he helped to create. But Nick Cannon uses this track to explain how he is still just as powerful and now prioritizes Black ownership as he says “We own that s***, we reppin' for all Blacks, that's why they had to give my s*** back.”
“Strong Friends” elevates a mantra that prioritizes checking in on each other, especially since we don’t know what one might go through. As people continue to go through hard experiences with mental health, simply asking “how are you” can go a long way. The chorus of the song “'Check in on your strong friends/ Tap in with your brother, sister, we gon' keep it solid” shows Earthgang’s focus on vulnerability and selflessness in helping others be their best selves.
“Strong Friends” by Earthgang
The only critique to acknowledge about this album has nothing to do with the music, but more about the visual element of the album. The rich detail from the vivid lyrical imagery is the perfect reason to supplement the album with music videos. Earthgang opted to release a music video for each of the album's songs based on popular demand in a week-by-week fashion. This approach is similar to their “Ghetto Gods” rollout as they opted for exclusive live performances for fans one month before releasing it on streaming platforms. In the age of mass consumption, it is easy to understand the wait to release the music videos one at a time. But with songs that demand vivid visualization of inspiration specifically with anthems like “Power” or “Amen” waiting to release them after the initial hype of the album is a gamble. Releasing all the music videos at once would allow the fans continuity with the album to watch their favorite music videos to Earthgang’s songs. Especially if fans are eager to watch and listen to their specific favorites all at once. As of writing this, Earthgang has released music videos for “American Horror Story” and “Strong Friends.” With two videos down and more to go, hopefully, each video will receive the proper recognition even months after the release. A noteworthy album like this deserves lasting celebration instead of limited attention.
“Ghetto Gods” can be a soundtrack to empower the next generation of change-makers and as Nick Cannon summed it up perfectly in his verse on “Power,” “Cause n***** that think they crazy enough to change the world, the ones that actually do that.”