One of the freshest sounds coming out of Atlanta today is from hip-hop duo EARTHGANG. Its members, rappers Johnny “Olu O. Fann” Venus and Doctur “Eian Undrai Parker” Dot, have pioneered a sound that’s received high praises from Noisey and Billboard, to name a few, and their sound has been compared to OutKast and The Pharcyde.
Not only is EARTHGANG’s music heavily influenced by their native Atlanta, but so is their personal style. The two have a dope way of blending the freshness of ATL’s creative scene, which is diverse, colorful, and full of energy, with streetwear classics like PUMA’s GV Special.
Doctor Dot and Johnny Venus, laced up in GV Specials, gave us a tour of their hometown, spoke on the hustle in Atlanta and its evolving music scene, all while flexing their personal style.
What neighborhoods are you guys from?
Doctur Dot (DC): Ben Hill.
Johnny Venus (JV): I’m from the West End.
How has where you’re from shaped you as artists?
DC: I guess one thing I could say is that I’m not from a place where I know a lot of people that made it doing what I’m doing. I know a lot of people that I still respect and revere and talk to all the time that don’t care about no celebrity. They don’t care nothing about none of the Hollywood stuff. They just are like, “Look, are you being real with your music?” And they still be on me like that today. I think that’s one of the biggest things, just knowing real people and not losing touch.
JV: The West End is so crazy. It’s like a black Mecca inside of a black Mecca. Everybody say Atlanta is the black Mecca of the South. Well, the West End is the black Mecca of Atlanta. You got the AUC [Atlanta University Center] in the West End, you got Peaches, the strip club in the West End, you got the West End Mall, you got the vegan Africans, you know what I’m saying? You’ve got your catholic, your baptist, your Pan-Africans, everybody in some way is affected by the West End. That diversity and all those different viewpoints of what it’s like to be black in America… that shaped me throughout my upbringing and throughout my music.
Even now, you got folks like Ralo coming out of the West End, folks like Yachty, and it’s dope because it’s a breeding ground for talent.
How did you guys meet?
DC: High school, ninth grade. We had a bunch of classes together. [We were] cracking jokes, and y’all trying to be the funniest, both of y’all getting told to shut up. It’s like that kind of spirit, and we also all had a love for music. Like we’d get together and do the whole LimeWire thing… we’d get together on some high school stuff, being in the basement, and listening to records and stuff. Eventually, that turned into freestyle and then eventually that started off as a what-if—we was posting music on Bandcamp…
JV: We literally was posting music on Bandcamp for ourselves, and for the people we went to high school with who was making this music with us. Rushed studio sessions, and we just happen to be in a studio. We got used to it.
We had teachers who let us make records for our school graduation and sit at the Civic Center. We had teachers who let us create soundtracks for projects and stuff, like, little movies for projects. They gave us that freedom. The freedom to do it and explore it, you know what I’m saying, that’s what helped set the stages for not only just the music but also the community that we fertilized this with.
DC: [A teacher] put me on to a lot, like early, a lot of stuff I didn’t know about like OutKast. And we came up in the same neighborhood they came up in.
And then, once it started getting out, we was like a group or whatever. We was bouncing around Atlanta for a long time.
How does revisiting your local haunts in Atlanta fuel your creativity and hustle?
JV: For me, it’s like going to the ocean to get more water, to get more raw material. To put our influence on it. You get these things that are pure energy, pure creativity, and it comes and you have this in your hand. And you take that to wherever you are with your feelings and what you’ve been going through. And you take that raw material and you turn that into something new for other people to see. That’s basically what it is to me. It’s just raw material here, raw energy, raw gold right here in Atlanta, Georgia.
A lot of times we think about life, we think about this farending thing like, “Once we do all this stuff, we’re going to get to this point,” but life is always a constant walk. So, every day people are learning new things and putting that new energy here. When you was young, you was dancing to Baby D, Big Unk, Lil Jon. Now, you’re dancing to everybody that’s out now. You’re doing the song that you seen in the Childish Gambino video, “This Is America.” You doing those dances. So, that energy is still always here.
How has Atlanta’s music scene evolved?
DD: We grew up watching the infrastructure being built. By the time I even knew what music was, Organized Noize had really already… I was late catching up on that. I remember Grand Hustle [Records]. I remember DTP [Disturbing tha Peace records] being what was poppin’ when I was a kid. You know what I’m saying? I saw that my whole life.
By the time we were thinking about actually doing it on a level that’s closer to where we are now, we had several things in mind. One, is the whole 2008 to 2012 mantra of “Don’t sign to nobody.” That was probably the height of label fear, at least for our generation at one point, ’cause a lot of people had bad stories before then. When we figured out what we wanted to do, we tried to figure out how we even fit in it at all. So, we was thinkin’, “OK. We children of the internet. We gone be internet darlings.” Before there was a SoundCloud, literally we had SoundClick, HulkShare, and then when Bandcamp came out, we was like, “What is this?!”
We came into it with the perspective of, “Let’s make some music that’s ours. Let’s makes some music that feels original. Let’s make some music that feels different and put it out there and see what happens.”
JV: To me, it was always a do-it-yourself thing. Even from Organized Noize, they had they own stuff in the Dungeon. Dungeon Family did it they-self. T.I., Grand Hustle. Takin’ they money, puttin’ it into a business that they know… a creative outlet that has propelled them to the levels that they are at now. Big Unk Records. I remember when I first saw them set up the new store here in the West End. It was just like, “Dang, this is a black-owned record company in a black-owned record shop in Atlanta.” You had these places that was like, “These people are taking control over what they want.”
We’re here in these spaces, recordin’ these tracks in our people’s basement. We can take this music and we can throw it to the world right now. We don’t have to wait on our record label for people in Australia, people in Africa, people in Detroit to hear our stuff. So, we kind of got the best of both worlds. We got the self-determination, on one hand, and we got the right now on the other hand.
DD: A difference that we have that the people before us didn’t is that we developed in front of everybody’s eyes. We all do, and every artist does, but we developed from inception and in front of everybody. So, that’s EARTHGANG. That’s your Lil Yachtys. That’s your Migos. Everybody. So that’s why every time you get to a next level, it is so triumphant, ’cause we get to see the whole process of you first saying, “I wanna do this.” It’s like watching a person learn to ride a bike. We seen everybody fall the first time. We seen your scabs. We seen you bleed. We seen you say, “I really don’t even wanna ride this bike no more,” and then we seen you pick it back up. So, that’s just the benefit we get in this generation.