by Temi Akinyoade
EARTHGANG’s GHETTO GODS had one of the sloppiest rollouts I’ve witnessed. It was first announced to be released on September 24, 2021. About a month later, members Olu and WowGr8 posted an album trailer saying the album would drop on January 28. That day came and went with no new album. A member of the duo’s team tweeted, “it’s still dropping today, just only live” to clear any confusion. Fans were angry, with many of them saying, “y’all aren’t Kanye.” A few days later, the group had no control over the long-promised album’s delays, and that they felt so bad that they’d do a few free shows around the U.S. Then, they posted the tracklist. Of course, JID, J. Cole, and Ari Lennox — Dreamville labelmates — would be on the album. But the only thing most of these other featured artists have in common is being from Atlanta. Baby Tate and Future are on two opposite ends of the gendered toxicity spectrum, and Nick Cannon is also here for some reason? Everything about this process and the feature list scared me, but finally, after such a messy rollout, EARTHGANG released their fourth studio album GHETTO GODS.
Every aspect of this rollout killed a tiny bit more of the hype I had for GHETTO GODS, but to my shock, the album wasn’t weak in the areas I anticipated. The worst thing about EARTHGANG’s weaker songs is that they’re boring. Not objectively bad, just boring. This was true for every single they released for the project. “AMEN” disappointed me by bringing in a basic trap beat, when I hoped for something more unique. “ALL EYES ON ME” was slightly better, but could be easily duplicated by many other rappers. “AMERICAN HORROR STORY,” the leading single, was five minutes of “just okay.” I’d hoped they’d go over the top like they do at their best. “Tequila,” off of their previous album Mirrorland, is a loud, brassy Latin-flavored song, where they switch between rapping and singing about a glass of tequila taking stress away.
One good thing that came out of the sloppy drop is that it couldn’t have been more timely, dropping with only a few days left in Black History Month. From that perspective, the theme of the album is an oxymoron — between celebration and praise of Black people and practices that may be deemed “ghetto.” In a more general sense, these songs have a pattern of finding a god in oneself. This message is attempted in most songs, whether they’re focused on romance, working hard, or money. In some songs, they nail it, and other times, they’re thrown off the rails, for a multitude of reasons.
Songs at the beginning of the album, like “BILLI,” have the fun pop-y southern rap sound that EARTHGANG is known for. “BILLI” keeps another pretty basic trap beat rhythm, but there’s still some kookiness added to it. WowGr8 freestyles the first verse and the lyrics aren’t too special, but it’s still a head bopper. The beat then switches to something much more mellow, and Future enters the song gloriously, with “I feel like a god on this earth, lil’ nigga,” spitting brag after brag. “WATERBOYZ” is a dream come true to Dreamville fanatics, because despite all being on the same label, there’s only a handful of songs with verses from JID, J. Cole, and EARTHGANG. It’s another brag song, but it’s great.
There’s a clear transition to the more romantically focused part of the album. In “AMEN,” Olu sings, “Get down on your knees for me / If you really love me, if you really need me,” making himself a metaphor for a “god” in a strange way. “ALL EYES ON ME” and “LIE TO ME” go somewhat unnoticed, then comes the weirdest song on the album, “BLACK PEARLS.” Olu and WowGr8 can’t decide if they want to make this song a shout-out to black women or just their curvy partners, so they just talk about that all at once. The abruptness between them saying “shawty got a new body” over and over, then “The leader of movements / Don’t get the credit we owe you, that shit ain’t right” will give you whiplash. Baby Tate as an individual sounds great on this song, but the content of her verse is very out of place.
The duo immediately redeems themselves with “AMERICAN HORROR STORY,” and the album picks up a lot in the second half in general. I didn’t get it when it only dropped as a single, but this is the best song on the album. It starts with a short monologue where a woman talks about how scary it is being Black, then EARTHGANG transitions into rapping about growing up in tough circumstances. Everything about it—from the lyrics to its title and beat—makes it very cohesive.While this album deviates somewhat from the appeal to Mirrorland, the album most people know EARTHGANG for, it clearly shows Olu and WowGr8 stepping further into the style they’ve been developing for a while. With this album, they got better with lyrics and slightly worse at coherence. However, while a couple of these songs may be weak, I can’t say a lot of it was boring. Maybe if they hadn’t felt so much pressure to drop the album as soon as possible after disappointing their fans, the duds in the first half of the album wouldn’t be there at all.