Atlanta has long been at the forefront of rap music. With many influential artists both old and new, Atlanta’s music scene has a level of diversity that is unmatched by other cities. Perhaps no group can reflect on the city’s unique culture as well as EarthGang. The Dreamville duo’s long-awaited major-label debut Mirrorland has finally arrived, as they take listeners on a strange trip throughout the city and culture that raised them.
EarthGang is composed of rappers Johnny Venus and WowGr8. The duo formed in 2008, while both members were still high school students in Atlanta. Their first mixtape dropped in 2010, with their first album following in 2013. These, along with a handful of other projects the duo released, helped them gain enough traction to be noticed by J. Cole, who subsequently signed them to his label, Dreamville Records, in 2017. Since then, they released a trio of EPs leading up to the highly-anticipated Mirrorland.
Mirrorland had been in the making for a long time before its release. The album was first announced in 2017, and the duo worked meticulously to make sure that it was up to their standards. EarthGang based Mirrorland on the city they grew up in, which is why they embraced the outlandish during the creation of the album. Each song is vibrant and stimulating, causing the album itself to feel as though it is in a constant state of change. Throughout the production of Mirrorland, EarthGang was inspired by The Wiz, attempting to recreate the film’s vivid colors and trippy nature. In an interview with Pitchfork, Johnny Venus explained just how similar the world within the film is to the city of Atlanta, saying, “We got to create another world for people to imagine and go to. It’s really colorful. It’s really dangerous. It’s really trippy. Atlanta is the Land of Oz. It’s black people just being unafraid and unapologetically creative. Just running around being themselves.”
From start to finish, Mirrorland is an immersive experience. It goes in many different directions sonically, incorporating everything from soul to funk music. Songs such as “LaLa Challenge” and “Top Down” provide a firsthand look into EarthGang’s interpretation of Atlanta, as they ride through the city and take in the environment surrounding them. Other tracks such as “Swivel” and “This Side” give an introspective look into the dangers of the city, where trouble is lurking around the corner. One of the duo’s greatest strengths is their versatility, and it shows throughout the album. They effortlessly go from rap songs to songs such as “Blue Moon,” a soulful track with a groovy beat that is reminiscent of the city’s blues roots. Perhaps the most memorable song on the album is “Proud of U.” The track, which features Young Thug, is a triumphant ode to those who have had many struggles and hard times but were able to overcome them. There are a few other notable features on the album, including Kehlani and T-Pain, but none can overshadow EarthGang’s creative spirit.
Atlanta has always been known as a place that is unique and diverse. “Everywhere you go, everyday is something new. It’s something you can learn from. It’s some type of inspiration, something you can grasp from,” Johnny Venus said of his hometown. This reflects on Mirrorland as well, as EarthGang goes on an electrifying journey full of color and radiance, warping in every direction on the way.