Hot take: EarthGang, one of Dreamville Records most recent signees, is way better than Dreamville Records frontman and founder J. Cole. The rap duo (comprised of Doctur Dot and Johnny Venus) from Atlanta, GA creates a unique brand of hip-hop that effortlessly melts jazzy Southern roots (thanks to their biggest inspiration, OutKast) and near-cosmic sounds. Their ethereal sound is enrapturing, yet familiar. Their latest release, Royalty, the third and final installment of their R-related EP trilogy, underscores their best qualities as a group.
“Cocktail” opens the project with a swift Doc rapping over gorgeous, dynamic trumpets. Doc sounds inspired, a statement that EarthGang as a collective, as an idea, needs to prove something. He raps “I’m just here to highlight my life/ Fuck a gas pack, NASDAQ, get the price high/ Where the cash at? Tell the broke days bye bye.” EarthGang is alive for the right reasons: craft improvement and life improvement are the main motives. Later, on Childish Major-produced and Ari Lennox-assisted “Nothing but the Best,” Venus takes a step further, hinting that EarthGang might already be at some sort of extraterrestrial level, rapping “I whip the feast, I put the heat under microscopes/ Now stream all the reasons to siphon the flow.”
Where this project, and the trilogy as a whole, slightly falters is the incorporation of many skits. All three of Royalty‘s skits (appropriately titled “Skit 1,” “Skit 2” and “Skit 3,” respectively) feature monologues from Atlanta comedian DC Young Fly and detail a short car ride and smoking session. None of the skits are bland or thickheaded– in fact, DC provides some wonderful comic relief – but the allocation of time throughout this project seems to be misadjusted with these skits included. Nevertheless, it is just an extended play at the end of the day, so time allocation is not nearly a huge concern. The quality and detailed-oriented approach taken by EarthGang on Royalty, ultimately, shoos away this nitpicky problem with grace.
Each track in accompaniment with the skits leaves listeners drooling for more. Five solid songs of outstanding technical rap, smooth, buttery beats and uncontrived storytelling make for a sick listen: at this point in their Dreamville careers, they are just slowly building and teasing something grander. Their full-length Dreamville debut, Mirrorland (expected to be released later this year), will be one of the most important hip-hop projects of 2018. Until then, fans and critics alike can bask in the glory of EarthGang’s talent.