The Frenetic Energy of EARTHGANG Comes to the Valley


Rap duo EARTHGANG performs at The Complex in downtown Salt Lake City on Nov. 19, 2019 (Photo by Camille Rousculp | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Christopher Payne, Assistant Arts Editor

The Complex was hardly two-thirds full when EARTHGANG took the stage, but with the energy shared between the rap duo and the crowd, you’d think the room was twice over capacity. The Atlanta based musicians — Olu (Johnny Venus) and WowGr8 (Doctur Dot) — came to Salt Lake City on Nov. 19 during their latest stop along their “Welcome to Mirrorland” tour, and they let loose. In the first 10 minutes of their set, Venus was bare chested and Dot was screaming. The crowd never failed to scream back twice as loud as they moshed, and someone lost a shoe midway through the concert.

Rap duo EARTHGANG performs at The Complex in downtown Salt Lake City on Nov. 19, 2019 (Photo by Camille Rousculp | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

These two artists have been on the up and up lately — the “Mirrorland” album hit 40 on the US Billboard 200. Known for sharp and playful lyricism, extravagant vocals, high energy and some of the wildest, vibrant tracks in the rap world today, EARTHGANG held nothing back that night. Musicians Benji. (Ian Welch) and Guapdad 4000 (Akeem Hayes) performed the opening sets and helped get the crowd warmed up. Welch, rising out of the Pittsburgh rap scene, began with relatively slower tracks, funny narratives and a great back-and-forth dynamic with his DJ Hayes. DJ Hayes — who worked with EARTHGANG on the “Revenge of the Dreamers III” album — brought more intense energy, punctuated many of his songs with shouting and worked the crowd up into a frenzy with his call and response. In fact, yelling and screaming became a bit of a common theme as the night progressed.

The crowd at the complex comes alive (Photo by Camille Rousculp | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

The majority of EARTHGANG’s most popular songs are fast paced and high energy already, but on that stage, the pace became faster and the energy higher. As Venus and Dot performed their biggest hits — including “LaLa Challenge,” “Stuck,” “Proud of U,” “Meditate,” “Costa Rica,” “1993,” ”Sacrifices” and more — their raps were quick, sharp and punchy. They sang the melodies at the top of their lungs and often ended their singing with some wild improvisational sliding or a passionate scream. They bounced across the stage while the audience bounced with them, and they frequently let the crowd take over belting out the strongest lines of the choruses. It was impossible not to be swept up in the infectious energy of it all.

“F*** Donald Trump” performed by EARTHGANG (Photo by Camille Rousculp | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Themes of genuineness and human connection were at the heart of EARTHGANG’s performance. It’s not difficult to see these two as a sort of Queen for the modern rap scene — flamboyant, energetic performers who are looking to create a sense of community with like-minded fans. The comparison is intended as high praise for these two gifted artists and all their elaborate compositions. And as many of the best performances do, EARTHGANG did not hesitate to make a not so subtle topical political commentary near the end of the show. The crowd put their hands up, middle fingers extended, and moshed to “F*** Donald Trump.” It seemed a particularly fitting conclusion to the evening as we approach the end of the first week of impeachment hearings for our beloved president.


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