Review: ‘GHETTO GODS’ is a Westside Atlanta origin story

Rap duo EARTHGANG’s latest album is a tribute to their hometown.


EARTHGANG is an American hip hop duo from Atlanta. They released their second studio album, “GHETTO GODS,” on Feb. 25. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Destine Manson, Contributing Writer

Rap duo EARTHGANG’s latest album “GHETTO GODS” is a deep car conversation with friends — one that navigates the experience of being Black and in your 20s today. “GHETTO GODS” is a literal trip down memory lane as Doctur Dot (Wowgr8) and Johnny Venus (Olu) rap about life over soulful, bass-heavy beats. It’s an EARTHGANG album exhibiting the unapologetic blooming artistry coming from artists nurtured by their commitment to stay true to their roots in Atlanta’s Westside.

Originally scheduled for Jan. 28, the album’s release was delayed for almost a month. The rap duo cited clearance issues for the delay in the release of their third official album, and expressed their frustrations on social media.

After promising so much and realizing that it wasn’t in the stars we as a team got proactive to set up any way possible for fans to hear the music,” the group said in an Instagram post. To make it up to fans, EARTHGANG went on a tour in select cities to perform the album for free in small venues.

But after EARTHGANG promoted the album across the globe, “GHETTO GODS” brings it back home to Atlanta with a narration from 2 Chainz. The Atlanta rapper opens the album with a pep talk to Olu and Wowgr8, reminding them that while things may get tough with success, if they look deep enough, there’s always “that shine, that polish” hidden deep beneath the trenches.

“GHETTO GODS” is an album with lyrics and production from an empyrean place, a pedestal from which EARTHGANG observes the trivial problems we create for ourselves by seeking approval from the masses and social media. Instead of falling for the hype, EARTHGANG proposes digging deeper and letting go of the things we’ve been taught — like misogyny, internalized racism and greed — in exchange for something greater. On the surface, the track “LIE TO ME” sounds like a critique of flexing wealth, when in reality the duo is both critical of and sentimental about the need to create a facade to get by. As Johnny Venus raps on the chorus, “She got a Birkin, flossin’, money well spent,” but “she still in them ’partments paying rent.” 

Along with star-studded features from Dreamville, the album also features unexpected appearances from southern rap icon CeeLo Green and “Wild ‘N Out” host Nick Cannon on “POWER.” On the track, CeeLo drops some knowledge for today’s Black rappers, with his verse feeling like classic Goodie Mob. CeeLo schools us on the dangers of playing the white man’s game of capitalistic greed because, as he raps, “A slave’s master business is Black.”

The collaboration with both J.I.D and J.Cole on “WATERBOYZ” was worth the hype that built after EARTHGANG released the tracklist on Feb. 24, confirming the two Dreamville artists would be on the album. Despite the influx of Atlanta rap artists taking over the airwaves today, there has never been a track giving a shout-out to the Atlanta water boys. A staple of growing up in the city is witnessing the hustle of the little boys who sell water bottles for a dollar at the stoplight during Georgia heat waves. The song is a tribute to them, with verses from Cole and J.I.D interplaying with bars from Johnny Venus and Dot, forming what sounds like an organic recording experience between the Dreamville artists. 

These stories are inarguably created on the Atlanta streets, but the characters are universal and difficult to summarize in a review. The key message from the album is simply seeing all Black people win, but not at the expense of losing their true selves in the process. EARTHGANG has always been gifted storytellers, but “GHETTO GODS” takes it up a notch, showcasing how they are a force to be reckoned with in the global rap cypher — all without leaving behind a drop of southern twang.

Contact Destine Manson at [email protected].