EarthGang Communes with Ghosts and Greatness on “Ghetto Gods”

Posted on February 28, 2022

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Ghosts can both haunt and inspire; they can be tragic and spark ideas.

EarthGang is brilliant but spotty ghetto gods is strongly linked to the heroes of the open-minded duo, most of whom have passed but swirl fully present for the deep mediations and fleeting escapes of Olu and WowGr8.

So when guest emcee and Dreamville colleague JID hops on bouncing band “Waterboyz” and spits, “I see evil is in disguise / All my idols are already dead,” you have to wonder if he heard all of his buddies. album and summed it up in a direct line.

EarthGang continually strives to anchor the celestial to the terrestrial, and vice versa. There are mentions of attacking life with a “Mamba mentality” (in reference to Kobe Bryant), gorging on Nipsey Hussle verses, and rocking boats like Aaliyah.

The bittersweet single “All Eyes on Me” is, fittingly, precisely the type of semi-spiritual anthem Tupac Shakur would make if he were still alive and enraged at today’s machine. The searing “Smoke Sum” break was lit as a coping strategy during the George Floyd protests in their hometown, and it’s simmering with high-profile Bob Marley vibes. (Heck, even the promotional single “Aretha” — not included in the studio’s finished product, unfortunately — is a sweet ode to Mrs. Franklin.)

“Warriors die, but they live in the sky,” WowGr8 raps at one point, capturing the skies of Atlanta, Georgia.

Spiritual connotations and seeds of heritage drape debates over ghetto gods, who wants his listener to get rid of lies and falsification, to let his inner light shine. Of course, the writing of its authors is too clever and their skills too adept to allow this message to sound corny. The risk-taking production, overseen by Dungeon Family’s Kawan “KP” Prather, draws on the hip-hop history of their home state.

The four-song series of “Waterboyz”, “Amen”, “All Eyes on Me” and “Lie to Me” – a moral rap story so infused with P-funk that I waited for George Clinton to appear and talk about it a mothership or power booties or something – is as clean and fun as anything in EarthGang’s catalog.

Next, we’re given some great-albeit-dark concept pieces. “American Horror Story” tackles America’s original sin (sample lyrics: “Here’s the hood / Now they’re coming back to take the hood”). And “Power” brings Goodie Mob’s Cee-Lo Green back into the rap game.

Yet despite those thunderclaps of clarity, the entirety of the project lacks some of the explosive world-building that energized its predecessor, 2019. Mirror country. All five skippable skits and a sleepy conclusion bog down in the second half of a record-breaking sort of way to the finish line. And some of the cameos (2 Chainz, Future, Nick Cannon) don’t add much beyond brand cachet.

While Mirror country came from a relatively quiet time in history, ghetto gods was created by a plague and racial calculation. It is therefore understandable that the fun factor and the tempo have been reduced. Heavy is the pen.

Yet when these heroic ghosts and EarthGang appear in synchronicity, the music is downright out of this world. (Dreamville Records/Interscope)

Joan D. Boling