Confronted with the pause of live shows and touring, Earthgang members Olu and WowGr8 were forced to travel back home to Atlanta, where they spent time reflecting on the events happening both worldwide and locally. The conditions meant that the duo was forced to pivot their creative approach, allowing them to break and look inward into their community. Like true artists, the circumstances drove the pair to channel their emotions, experiences, and introspection within their new music. Decorating the album with shades of their Atlanta origins, a strong message of hope and inner strength became rooted within the project’s lyricism. Seeing an opportunity to utilise their craft and draw impact through change, the duo geared up to guide their community of listeners to realise their true, birthright potential. Earthgang’s latest project continues to showcase their commitment to exploring a myriad of social issues that are ever-present and awaiting action.
Production-wise, the album houses that unique Earthgang sound with a tasteful selection of cross-genre beats. Each track offers something a little different ranging from theatrical skits to triumphant vocal intonations. The 17 track project is well versed in a variety of feature artists including Earthgang’s label mates Ari Lennox, J.I.D and Dreamville founder J.Cole.
The other week Acclaim jumped on a call with both Olu ad WowGr8 to talk more about some of the album’s intricacies. We got into how they ended up working with legends such as Musiq Soulchild and CeeLo Green, whilst also delving into how the Earthgang fanbase played a key role when crafting GHETTO GODS.
Congratulations on the release of your latest album GHETTO GODS. We’d love to know more about the inception of this project and maybe what sort of thoughts, experiences and dialogue that may have inspired it?
Olu: We actually started this project right after Spilligion, or right around the time we were doing Spilligion throughout the pandemic in 2020 and quarantine. That was our first time spending a really super concentrated amount of time at home. Without tours, you know we always toured so much it’s been the backbone of our careers. So, that was the first time coming back home, interacting, and experiencing life through the lens of Atlanta again. Like, Atlanta is always in us but being back home, we were going southside all the time, we were going westside all the time, being in the city and going out cause Atlanta never really shut down. So, it’s like we still tryna figure out how to live through all of this. Through all of that and everything else that was going on in the world, the protests, the racism, and people tryna figure out who they are you know what I’m saying – what’s their passions, what’s their purpose in life… GHETTO GODS was birthed.
Nice. So, what were some of your intentions behind naming the project Ghetto Gods?
Olu: The intentions behind naming the project GHETTO GODS is to inspire all the people that listen to the music – it don’t really matter where you’re from, whether you’re from the ghetto or from the country it doesn’t matter but it’s to let you know that there’s untapped potential that was already placed in you at the moment of birth. That’s why the album cover has the children and they eyes are gone because they already got the potential, they already got the power. Whatever they need for them to get through this life and excel is already inside of them and that’s the same with this whole entire community, it’s not just the children you know. So, with the album cover, the eyes on the boys behind the gate is like people living in the community who we may see doing things that inspire you or see them living life to the fullest in their own special way. [Those people] bring their gifts and inspire you to do the same thing with yourself. That’s the same with us you know, all the people we came up listening to and all the people we came up watching in Atlanta – cause in Atlanta there’s no ceiling for Black people, you really have the opportunity to do the best you can and really make life what it is for yourself, your family and community if you all work together. So, put that all into the music and that was the reason behind the title. And also, the sound… it has a ring.
It does have a good ring to it. Across each of the tracks on this project, you talk about different topics and reflections. For example, ‘American Horror Story’ speaks on the history of Black America, whereas ‘Strong Friends’ acknowledges mental health and the importance of checking in on your people. Why is it important for you to speak on those types of sentiments in your music?
WowGr8: I think it’s important just cause it’s on our minds. I think if you really just talk to people in their day to day lives – and the conversations we having sometimes, we don’t necessarily put them into art, we just have them and go do something else. But sometimes it’s okay to—you know—document your actual feelings in your music.
Do you feel like being able to translate that into music through lyricism has become quite a free and expressive process for you?
WowGr8: Yeah, it’s free, it’s 100% free. I won’t force myself to talk about anything I don’t want to talk about. Even if we talking about a subject I don’t really know imma let you do the talking, so like if I’m talking about it, it’s because it’s free and comes naturally out of my soul.
Yeah, for sure. Sonically each track gives that unique Earthgang flair. What sort of sounds inspire your beats?
Olu: We just wanted to make sure that this record was jammin’. I mean, we’re known for our experimentation, for trying new things and trying new sounds and bringing all types of genres into it. Whether it’s Jazz, Gospel, Funk, Boom Bap, Rap whatever you wanna call it. If you go to our project Mirrorland you will hear and see shades of all those [genres] and the pattern that we created. So, we wanted to do the same for this one. We just wanted to make it a little more relevant to the times and to the music that we were hearing, kind of like infuse it all together. So, there’s still songs on there where you know, they have the jazz influence like ‘RUN TOO’ to me is like a very jazzy record with Ari Lennox. And then you have ‘AMEN’ which samples neo-soul Musiq Soulchild and then you got these crazy horns on ‘GHETTO GODS’ the title track. So, to us, it’s all about music that impacts you and pulls you immediately. We wanted the first three seconds to be like yo what the hell is this I need more, if not we was just skipping beats…or not even skipping beats we were just like that’s not the direction we want to go in.
Looking at Mirrorland and GHETTO GODS, what sort of distinctions did you want to make between the two?
WowGr8: I mean, one thing we talk about a lot with our squad is just the flow of the project. We like Mirrorland a lot, but I know for a lot of people, for a listener the experience wasn’t always smooth. But sometimes it can be fun right, there’s a certain type of appreciation for that as well. I think we wanted a smoothness and some clarity, like we wanted to hit the soul a little more. We wanted to hit you right here (points to heart) with this project. I think Mirrorland comes from a more cerebral process, like we was using our heads too much but I think we was just feeling on this one.
Olu: Mirrorland was also created in a different time you know. I think so much has drastically changed from the pandemic. A lot of people are so much more intentional with their time and how to spend their time and the things that they do. So, I think we wanted to make GHETTO GODS something that you can listen to but something that’s not gonna fully take your attention away from whatever you have going on. We been seeing a lot of fans say that they’ve had this album on repeat all weekend. That’s something we couldn’t do with Mirrorland, probably cause it’s not something people wanted to do for the times. You know they’d play Mirrorland, enjoy it and then get back to it later and it’d be a whole experience. But you know with GHETTO GODS it’s just short enough and sweet enough, so people are like ok I want more, I want more, I want more. Being an artist, you always have to adapt and we are firm believers in like keeping people’s attention with our music first and foremost and that’s what we wanted to do.
Exactly, times have changed, and we’ve all had to adapt. You also had some amazing features on this album, how was it working with people like CeeLo Green and Musiq Soulchild?
WowGr8: Well, they legends, they goats! They like people that we literally grew up listening to from childhood. So, being able to be on the same track with them is something like… if I could go back in time and shake myself by the shoulders and be like you’re gonna get a song with CeeLo and Musiq Soulchild my younger self wouldn’t even believe me. It’s like a dream. So, it was an honour to work with them dudes and you know you learn a lot about just perspective and your ability and I see myself now in a larger role in the future. It’s good to see longevity in that shit you know you can see yourself in that.
Of course, and can I ask how those relationships were formed and how you got them on the project?
Olu: A lot was through KP, shoutout Kawan Prather he’s the executive producer of the project. This is our first time having an executive producer so having an outside ear coming in and working on the project. If you know anything about KP, you know he’s worked with basically everybody. He’s very behind the scenes… artists such as Pharrell, TLC, Goodie Mob, OutKast, Dungeon Family, TI, you know what I’m saying he’s been a part of so many people’s careers and it’s good to have that kind of ace in the hole when you tryna reach out to legends and create sometime. So, shoutout to him.
That’s cool and I also read that one of the ways you sort of rolled out this project was by playing it for your fans prior to release, at different pop-up shows around the US and London. What were your motivations behind that?
WowGr8: One of the motivations was that we wanted to get back out and do shows again. We wanted to get out and see the people again. Like our whole career, our bread and butter has been our live shows and our live experience. That’s what helps to grow our fanbase, so we wanted to get back in touch with them and what better way to do it than to come with some new music to play. You know, initially, the plan wasn’t even 100% to change the album through that process, we thought we were done with the album. We was going out playing certain records and certain songs and seeing reactions and thinking about other things that we had and it just became a natural process of trying different things in different cities and seeing reactions and what people were posting about. And so, we kind of just formed the album from there. We got a really interactive fanbase, it’s good to have them in on the process.
That’s so nice to hear that you respect the opinions and tastes of your fanbase and have been able to share with them during that process. That’s really beautiful. Lastly, you have your Biodeghettable tour coming up. We’d love to see you take it down to Australia sometime!
Olu: Man, we would love to man. We would definitely love to. We were just saying we haven’t been there in so long and the vibes and the energy down there is always fun, so we’d love to.