EARTHGANG | MIRRORLAND PRE-RELEASE Q&A

by Devin Kasparian

SUSANA BETTENCOURT   top,   UNRAVEL PROJECT   pants,   OFF-WHITE C/O VIRGIL ABLOH   shoes,   LA EYEWORKS   glasses,   TASTEMAKER COLLECTIVE   scarf, and stylist’s own jewelry.

SUSANA BETTENCOURT top, UNRAVEL PROJECT pants, OFF-WHITE C/O VIRGIL ABLOH shoes, LA EYEWORKS glasses, TASTEMAKER COLLECTIVE scarf, and stylist’s own jewelry.

EARTHGANG IS COOL. When standing in a room with this spunky hip hop duo of Atlanta natives, you know you’re in the presence of something extremely special. Comprised of writers and vocalists Olu and WowGr8, EARTHGANG constantly emanates an electric energy, an earthy authenticity, and overwhelming, ultimate coolness. Whether they’re hyping up a crowd onstage, flying down the streets of Hollywood in rollerblades/on a pogo stick, or sitting down to talk to Flaunt Magazine, EARTHGANG never fails to bring their uniquely dynamic chemistry, and never fails to keep their cool.

The musical duo, often described as a postmodern Outkast, have been on the rise since they first released the genre pushing Shallow Graves For Toys in 2013, called "one of the most well thought-out releases of the year” by VICE. Their deliberately piercing lyricism and dynamic mix of southern hip hop stylings, powerfully expressive vocals, soulful rap, and a twinge of electronic funk have helped to carve EARTHGANG as an ascending standout act, pushing limits and pulling immense depth from each of their releases. This creative crew isn’t just rhyming with timing – they’re writing, crafting lyrics and following their wild energy and sincere spirit to make music with longevity – music that refuses to be ignored.

After gaining a cult following from their collection of mixtapes, EPs, features, and albums released through their co-founded musical collective, Spillage Village, EARTHGANG is finally releasing their long-awaited major studio album, Mirrorland, this September. Fans and critics alike are at the edge of their seats to hear what Olu and WowGr8 have in store for their first major solo-album release since 2015. EARTHGANG will be headlining a tour in Europe this September after their album release, and for those in NYC this weekend, don’t miss EARTHGANG at the 2019 Afropunk Festival on August 24th.

I sat down with the incredibly cool Olu and WowGr8 of EARTHGANG at Flaunt Magazine’s Los Angeles office and discussed their unique writing process, their out-of-body experience performing for crowds, and their hopes for their new release, Mirrorland, coming this September.

MISBHV   shirt and hat,   JOHN ELLIOTT   shorts,   BONNIE CLYDE   glasses,   ALEXIS BITTAR   necklace,   TOPSHOP   earring, and stylist’s own jewelry.

MISBHV shirt and hat, JOHN ELLIOTT shorts, BONNIE CLYDE glasses, ALEXIS BITTAR necklace, TOPSHOP earring, and stylist’s own jewelry.

Where did your new album Mirrorland originate from? How did it all come together?

WowGr8:

Well, initially with this album, it kind of very serendipitously started happening. We had finished our other album for about two years now — we finished our Strays project, Strays with Rabies. We were on tour, opening for a lot of people, doing our random EARTHGANG shows and promoting it. I really liked that album/mixtape, but it wasn't our first studio album … In between those two and now we had a little period of time for us to just record a lot of stuff. It wasn't really organized, it was just like disbanded recordings. So making it into an album was just kind of the process of organizing our music, like what have we been doing this whole the time? Like, look at a wall and see like all these different murals and paintings and stuff. But can it be in the gallery somewhere? And you're saying okay, well, what can be, and what maybe cannot be in a gallery, but in a smaller collection to just give to the fans? So that's how we start off. Start off with just a process of organizing our creativity, and then when it started to take a shape, we just started to follow into shape.

Was your process similar for your other albums?

Olu: 

We’re constantly just making music, so a lot of our projects come from the culmination of a concept, or idea, or a story that we're trying to paint. And then some of the best songs that fit that. Then from there, then we start making other songs to complete that idea. Just choosing from stuff that we have, and molding it in an order to finish telling the story. A lot of the songs on our album Mirrorland coming out, some of those songs were made two, three years ago. And some of them are just still that good. And then we made songs a couple months ago that are gonna go on the project too. We just take our time when we're making music, we take our time with the creative process because it allows for life to fully influence what you’re doing — so you don't just come up with a whole thing in five or ten minutes. There are things that happen in your life that you want to put aside for music, you know, good things, bad things, whatever, you’ve just got to be patient. All of that will show in the project, because we don't want these projects to drop and then just go away. The songs are pretty dense sometimes — some songs are dense, some songs are cool, you know, they just get you in the mood and that’s all. But we want to give enough so that when you listen to the project, you're playing it over and over and over, and finding new little easter eggs and other little things here and there, saying, “I never heard that before. I never connected that to the past project that they dropped.” 

WowGr8:

I think this album in particular, just since this is our first major studio album, I think everybody's like at least your first one should be a combination of your life story as much as possible. Maybe even if, let's say, for a new album, we decided to just make music for a week. This is how we felt for a week, and I never felt that away again. That's fine. I'm okay with whatever the process evolves into or turns into, whatever chances we take or experiments after this. I think this is really good for the significance of this project. You know what I'm saying? EARTHGANG. Like -- This is EARTHGANG, This is the shit they went through. Good and bad and all that, you know what I'm saying, now you know these n****s, now whatever we do after that this will be just ... however we feelin’.

THE INCORPORATED   coat and hat,   RICK OWENS   sweater,   DAILY PAPER   pants,   ALEXIS BITTAR   necklace, and stylist’s own jewelry.

THE INCORPORATED coat and hat, RICK OWENS sweater, DAILY PAPER pants, ALEXIS BITTAR necklace, and stylist’s own jewelry.

A lot of your music really is a form of storytelling. Is this how you want your music to be perceived?

Olu:

I want it to be perceived just like movies, like great stories, or like epics, you know — with great stories, you revisit them over and over and over again in order to continue to squeeze out the essence of things that you might have missed, so that you get a chance to expound upon them. And I want them to be surreal. I want them to be in your face, honest, truthful … good parts, bad parts. I want it to be something that people go back to over and over and over and over again and to relate to what's going on in life, so that way somebody will always have a point to where you can reference it. They’re talking about, you know, when they graduated from school that summer, or when I when they had a car crash or accident — things that everybody can deal with. We want to be able to take it and poke fun of it, you know, laugh and joke with it. But, still also making it prevalent.

WowGr8:

I just want to inspire people to make their own shit. Every time somebody says that, that's like the best compliment you can give me. I don't care if you're telling me my verse is hard, I don't care if you tell me anything. The best thing you can say to me is like, man, you made me wanna just make music. And then especially if you’re not even good at it, you just want to do it now — I really just want to inspire other people to be creative and to not take life too seriously.

JETPACK HOM(M)E   jacket and pants,   DIOR   shoes,   THE INCORPORATED     headwrap,   HI-TEK   sunglasses, and stylist’s own jewelry.

JETPACK HOM(M)E jacket and pants, DIOR shoes, THE INCORPORATED headwrap, HI-TEK sunglasses, and stylist’s own jewelry.

That's a really awesome, and I think you guys definitely already do that.

Olu:

Yeah, definitely, and with the storytelling aspect, we want to inspire people to dream and to push their boundaries on what they think is possible. You know, a lot of people say they watched us rap from when we first started and they’re still with us, saying like, “it's crazy to see y'all doing this right now.” So we want to inspire people to challenge life, and challenge what life gives you and create your own story, create your own ending. 

Going back to where you started, you guys have known each other since ninth grade. When was the moment you realized you would still be working together 15 years later?

WowGr8:

I don’t think we ever realized that moment. I think what we realized is there was strength in our unity. I think initially when we started, it was kind of just to have a friend to rap with, and then as it started to take significance to other people you realize what you represent to them and you realize, even whether you like it or not, it's a little bit of a responsibility to inspire the people that you can go further with somebody that you’ve known for a while. People see the opposites in us and the likenesses in us, whatever you see about it, take that and do with it what you will. 

THE INCORPORATED     top and pants,   BONNIE CLYDE   glasses,   JACQUEMUS   hat, and stylist’s own jewelry.

THE INCORPORATED top and pants, BONNIE CLYDE glasses, JACQUEMUS hat, and stylist’s own jewelry.

Do you guys have any pre-show rituals?

WowGr8:

I say we pray before the shows. I be like God, you know what I’m saying, let me keep my voice strong the whole set, I pray that this is good for my family, I pray on representing well. You know, I keep it pretty quick on the way out but I pray still before every show — um, what’s another pre show ritual? Cracking jokes, what I need to do to loosen up, you know what I’m saying, there’s a lot of roasting going on backstage, everybody’s cracking jokes with everybody, you know what I’m saying, just keep it loose. 

Olu:

I listen to music, I listen to some stuff that I know gives me that good energy, I kinda like, maybe take a few minutes to just meditate and just to myself. Because sometimes I get pre-show jitters and stuff, just cause my energy just be like “pewpewchewchewchew,” so sometimes I try to just take maybe like three minutes or something to kind of like direct it and so when I hit the stage, it all comes out. 

And also, definitely call on my ancestors, call on the people on the other side to just, you know, have fun and sometimes it may not even be people who are related to me. Sometimes I just call the name of people who I know, I appreciate their music, and I just be like, you know bless what’s about to happen, and let that be that. And also just have fun, drink, smoke, whatever. I sip a lot of honey, a lot of raw honey — one time I had some honey and it had bees’ legs in it.

Oh my God. What! How could you tell? Could you taste it? 

WowGr8:

Taste those crunchy little legs!

Olu:

If honey don’t have bees’ legs in it, then it ain’t real honey. 

WowGr8:

Everybody, eat your vegetables, and eat your bugs.

OPENING CEREMONY   jacket,   CALVIN KLEIN   boxers,   PSKAUFMAN   shoes, and   ZIRAN   mask.

OPENING CEREMONY jacket, CALVIN KLEIN boxers, PSKAUFMAN shoes, and ZIRAN mask.

That’s the message I want out here — What music do you listen to before a show? Which artists? 

Olu:

I listen to a lot of live music before the show. That’s something that I like to do because the energy is different than a studio recording. It’s always exponentially greater. So I listen to a lot of Bob Marley live albums, some Prince live albums, Marvin Gaye live albums. Just whoever got good live music, because I always like to feel that energy, so I listen to live albums before.

You’re both known for having such an incredible energy in your music and also in your performances. When you’re performing, do you experience it like you’re actually there? Do you see the people in the crowd?

WowGr8:

No, I haven’t been to one performance in my whole life. I haven’t been to a performance, except for maybe a really bad one. Some of the shows are really awful, but if it’s really good—

Olu:

You just get caught up in like a high—

WowGr8:

I say it’s the better the show is, the less I’m present.

Olu:

It feels like you’re in the middle of a ocean, you know what I’m saying? It’s just like I’m here but like the ocean is here, really. It’s more ocean than me, so that’s kinda how I feel—

WowGr8:

Every show I just go somewhere else, my body just goes up there.

Olu:

It’s like, it’s more energy outside of me so I don’t focus on my energy that much, I just focus on the collective energy outside of me.

WowGr8:

I get so outside of myself … Sometimes I freestyle a verse, or I’ll say some different words and the people just keep it going, or just keep the rhythm going or whatever I’m doing, I’m just not even there. I’ll go back and say, when did I do that? Or when did he do that, really.

SUSANA BETTENCOURT   top,   UNRAVEL PROJECT   pants,   OFF-WHITE C/O VIRGIL ABLOH   shoes,   LA EYEWORKS   glasses,   TASTEMAKER COLLECTIVE   scarf, and stylist’s own jewelry.   MISBHV   shirt and hat,   JOHN ELLIOTT   shorts,  WALTER VAN BEIRENDONCK   shoes,   BONNIE CLYDE   glasses,   ALEXIS BITTAR   necklace,   TOPSHOP   earring, and stylist’s own jewelry

SUSANA BETTENCOURT top, UNRAVEL PROJECT pants, OFF-WHITE C/O VIRGIL ABLOH shoes, LA EYEWORKS glasses, TASTEMAKER COLLECTIVE scarf, and stylist’s own jewelry. MISBHV shirt and hat, JOHN ELLIOTT shorts,WALTER VAN BEIRENDONCK shoes, BONNIE CLYDE glasses, ALEXIS BITTAR necklace, TOPSHOP earring, and stylist’s own jewelry


Photography by  Devin Kasparian.

Styled by McCall O’Brien.