There’s a lot to digest on EARTHGANG’s new album.
Fortunately, the first stretch of Ghetto Gods is easy to love. Following 2 Chainz’s spoken-word intro on “THE GLOW,” EARTHGANG kicks the album into overdrive with the triumphant title track “GHETTO GODS,” and the lush production serves as the perfect sonic backdrop for the duo to passionately sing and rap about both their fond and treacherous memories from growing up in Southwest Atlanta. Their intensity continues on the light-hearted third track “BILLI,” and while chanting “a billi’” over and over atop Tane Runo, Olu, Carvello, and Ace Harris’ bouncy production is undeniably enjoyable, the WowGr8-led song reaches an entirely different level of excitement once Future takes over. From the Atlanta legend’s confident opening line “I feel like a God on this Earth, lil’ nigga” to the hard-hitting, synth-laden beat switch, the second part of “BILLI” makes for one of the greatest and most memorable moments on GHETTO GODS.
Following that scene-stealing guest verse from Future Hendrixx, EARTHGANG manages to keep their feet on the gas with the Dreamville posse cut “WATERBOYZ,” a head-bobbing song that references Atlanta’s most notorious young hustlers. Beyond the fact that it marks the first time that EARTHGANG has appeared on a track alongside both JID and J. Cole since the Revenge of the Dreamers III cuts “Down Bad” and “1993” in 2019, “WATERBOYZ” just down-right slaps. Olu’s hook eases you into a conversation-like song that feels like the artists casually talking about a wide range of topics, from coming up and chasing one’s dreams to materialism and the dangers of street life. It’s an entertaining mix of substance and Southern aesthetic that once again brings EARTHGANG’s perspective of Atlanta to the forefront.
Yet after the pure bliss of “GHETTO GODS,” “BILLI,” and “WATERBOYZ,” the thrill of GHETTO GODS slowly starts to dissipate from there on out, and while there are some gems sprinkled throughout the rest of the tracklist, the top-heavy album never quite recaptures the spark exhibited on its opening tracks. On one hand, the stretch of songs from “Amen” to “Black Pearls” is noticeably slower and more lyrically robust than its predecessors, but the nosedive in energy — which can arguably be blamed entirely on the production — is too glaring to simply gloss over. As far as beats are concerned, GHETTO GODS is far less sonically adventurous than its predecessor, with many of the songs placed in the middle of the album coming off as more commercial, uninteresting, and, at times, just boring. Although a bulk of the production wasn’t necessarily mind-blowing or innovative, it was, however, still solid enough for EARTHGANG to get their message across, and after several listens, it’s clear that GHETTO GODS is a record with a lot of meat on its bones.
From the empowerment of Black women on “BLACK PEARLS” to the deconstruction of the Black American experience on tracks like “ALL EYEZ ON ME” and “AMERICAN HORROR STORY,” GHETTO GODS is loaded with social commentary and critical observations, which is another reason why EARTHGANG’s new album feels so heavy. Apart from a few tracks, it isn’t a casual album. Several listens are required to effectively unpack the ideas that Olu and WowGr8 attempt to relay throughout the album, and although it probably isn’t the most fun album to throw on the aux, GHETTO GODS is a record that listeners should take some time to live with.
In the end, EARTHGANG’s second Dreamville album refrains from becoming overly laborious by having its fair share of surprises — from Future’s aforementioned feature on “BILLI” to Cee-Lo Greene’s unbelievable verse on the Nick Cannon-assisted “POWER” — and finding compelling ways to infuse important messages into gorgeous soundscapes on tracks like “SMOKE SUM” and “RUN TOO.” Sure, there is a lot to digest on GHETTO GODS, but overall, it’s a positive step forward for EARTHGANG’s Olu and WowGr8, who have proven themselves capable of better articulating their ideas and achieving a more commercially viable sound without sacrificing their artistic integrity.