Flashing green lights illuminated the crowd members Nov. 12, as they waited for the show to start, thrumming with electric intensity and visible excitement. As the showrunners for this year’s “Monster Energy Outbreak” tour, hip-hop duo EarthGang drew fans from the hip-hop, soul and funk communities alike to celebrate the release of their third album, “Mirrorland,” produced under J. Cole’s Dreamville Records.
Pittsburgh rapper Benji. got the party started with narrative songs, such as “Rain” and “Family Ties,” reflecting Benji.’s raw lyricism and optimistic take on life. One of the highlights of his performance was “Tamale,” a spicy and fun song that featured influences from salsa and a marimba.
Hailing from Oakland, the charismatic Guapdad 4000 followed Benji.’s act brilliantly, only adding on to the crowd’s excitement. The rapper performed with his signature tongue-in-cheek flair and adept use of wordplay featured in songs like “Red Flags.”
EarthGang members Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot performed with passion and spirit as soon as they jumped onstage. In “LaLa Challenge,” Venus leaped around the stage with never-ending stamina, while Dot rapped skillfully. “Top Down” highlighted Venus’ soaring voice and was a nonstop stream of fire with endless vivacity. “This Side” brought authenticity and hope, as Venus sang, “I ride, won’t never fall/ I rise, the mornin’ star/ I’m fly, I’m gon’ get far.” The song was a fan favorite and had the crowd singing along.
Venus and Dot then moved on to “Swivel,” a more mellow song about staying true to oneself and making the best of a situation. Dot’s rough voice initiated the track before Venus added his eclectic sound. The performers continued to bounce off of each other in “Trippin,” which displayed Dot’s lyrical skills and Venus’ soulful R&B singing.
The duo paused to show their gratitude to Oakland, saying, “We’re from Atlanta, so we’re basically like brothers to people in Oakland. We appreciate you all.” They proceeded to get the house moving with their love song, “Stuck,” flexing their unique blend of soul and R&B imbued with a Southern spirituality. Venus provided the main melody to the song with his sonorous, unique voice, and Dot embellished with on-beat rap verses.
Using the smooth and captivating beat from their song “Missed Calls,” EarthGang led the crowd in an impassioned chant of “F— Donald Trump.” Venus and Dot, known for their astute political awareness and raw boldness, are unafraid of calling out injustice in their world or including political themes in their creations. The duo later called for a moment of respect in response to all the deaths of African American youth over the years.
EarthGang continued along this politically conscious vein by performing “Meditate,” which reflects on the experience of being African American in the United States. Venus sang, “Looking for peace in America/ Looking for peace when I stare at you.” Dot spits his verses with skillful consistency and feeling, while Venus crooned along. The duo exploded with a final spark of liveliness, as they ended the evening with “Up,” a song about the triumph of rising to the top. A soul choir loop played in the background, as Dot and Venus rocked the stage, riding on the wave of the crowd’s energy.
In their powerful performance, the members of EarthGang showed they were a force to be reckoned with. The group expanded on the concept of “EarthGang” as a universal entity that all of its fans could be a part of. A strong sense of social awareness and solidarity permeated all of EarthGang’s songs, while still maintaining a lighthearted and refreshing atmosphere. The rap duo proved they were not only compelling performers but leaders of a revolutionary movement in music.
Highlights: “Tamale,” “Missed Calls,” “ This Side”
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