Ghetto Gods

by Nick Cheshire

In an emotional return to the forefront of the Atlanta rap scene, Dreamville’s EARTHGANG shines an honest light upon the realities of their beloved city and the lessons it exemplifies with Ghetto Gods. EARTHGANG, comprised of high-school friends Olu (aka Johnny Venus) and WowGr8 (aka Doctur Dot), delivered their sophomore major-label album on February 25th after a series of minor delays pushed the release date back nearly a month.

OnGhetto Gods, the duo revives the creativity and personal storytelling that made 2019’s Mirrorland so beloved while adding a dash of post-pandemic reflection, creating a unique body of work. Like on Mirrorland, the duo enlists the help of some of the biggest names in the industry, seamlessly working the guests into the 17 tracks without the album overstaying its welcome. The star-studded cast includes Atlanta legends like Future, CeeLo Green, as well as some of the city’s premier young talent, including Baby Tate and labelmate JID, not to mention a verse from Dreamville head honcho J. Cole himself.

The album’s themes center around public image and social injustice, particularly among black men and women in Atlanta. The latter shines through clearly on ‘ALL EYEZ ON ME’, a tactical mission to empower the community and spread awareness while also displaying impressive penmanship: “Got a twenty-dollar bill, get your hands up. You survived last year, get your hands up.” On ‘LIE TO ME’, the duo addresses the desire for wealth and a positive public image versus the thinly veiled realities that are often shielded behind the material possessions: “Saturday, Sunday, he got cash to play, Monday come his pockets full of lint.”

WhileMirrorland was an extravagant, creative bonanza, Ghetto Godsharnesses that creativity while taking a step closer to standard Atlanta rap, offering tastes of success outside of their experimental lane. ‘BILLI’ (feat. Future) sees Olu and WowGr8 going toe-to-toe with the hometown superstar while discussing the money they desire to support their loved ones: “I could never be happy with millions, at least ten figures, I need a billi.” WATERBOYZ’ (feat. JID & J. Cole) stands a cut above the rest, as the five-minute hit impresses from start to finish as each of the four Dreamville emcees deliver lengthy, seamless verses with each raising the bar as the track progresses.

In comparison to previous works, Ghetto Gods feels like a natural next step for the tandem, who have drawn loose comparisons from die-hard fans to Outkast. If Mirrorland was a realization of EARTHGANG’s true creative vision, Ghetto Gods takes that vision and puts it in perspective, paying homage to their roots and inspiring the next generation along the way. Olu and WowGr8 help prove that the Dreamville roster is as deep as any label in the industry today and that EARTHGANG is one of the most versatile rap duos in recent memory.