Eccentric and eclectic alternative hip-hop duo EarthGang from Atlanta, Georgia are on a metaphorical high recently and well they should be. Passing up the cheap mixtape route for solid committed albums, EarthGang scored their first major attention getter with 2013’s Shallow Graves For Toys and just this last February, the twosome released their Torba EP via Spillage Village Records. Their reputation as one of ATL’s most philosophical and experimental rap acts of late is now firmly established, and members Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot are riding their wave of success while controlling the direction they’re headed in. Their latest effort, Strays With Rabies (Nov. 6), continues with their vibrance and knack for pensive, lost soul thoughts over wandering, floating cloud beats with a little psychedelia.
With their melodic vocal chords, creative rap bars and some spur of the moment cognition, the two emcees of EarthGang in this Strays With Rabies project are almost indistinguishable from one another vocally, but the LP’s total artistic beauty mostly offsets the lack of individuality between Johnny and Doc. Random observations, love ballads, brain dumps and hippie pastimes make up the full contextual spectrum of the album, and our two leaders are the perfect bohemian journeymen to explain their desires and wishes for normalcy and tranquility. Although aloof at times but nowhere near being mean, the pair have a sense of prudence and probity about them: a young mother exhorts her son to “handle your business and take responsibility for your actions like a man” in “Ain’t No Take-Backs,” “Masturpeace” finds the two “trying to master peace,” and in “A.W.O.L.,” it is in their music where they find escape, sanity and solace.
The lush sounds and rich writing and delivery in Strays With Rabies have mainly been put to use romanticizing the ghetto experience. Sometimes, Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot seem to have no preplanned path. Their thoughts occur spontaneously and impulsively as they rap in many short adages, but to their credit, the music is made that much more interesting and appropriate for the times by their style of inventive rhymes, different voice inflections, and soulful, emotionally sung choruses. Strays With Rabies may not have any catchy, poppy singles, the type radio station program directors drool over, but on the whole, the album has enough lasting, memory-making moments to sate the real heads out there. Put your hands together for EarthGang, real forwarders of the culture of deep thinking rap.