EarthGang Talks J. Cole, Music and Dealing with OutKast Comparisons
Since their acclaimed 2013 album Shallow Graves for Toys, EarthGang has aimed to bring unforced and melodic, yet thought provoking lyricism to the forefront.
Olu O. “Doctur Dot” Fann and Eian Undrai “Johnny Venus” Parker bonded over shared musical interests at Benjamin E. Mays high school in Atlanta. They continued their education and graduated from Virginia’s Hampton University in 2012, while resolving to make music their primary focus, because as Doctur Dot adamantly insists "ain't no fall back plan."
The longtime friends pushed through tough times and limited resources to create music from a largely DIY operation. The perseverance paid off, as they are now earning respect and accolades from listeners and fellow artists, including J.Cole.
Currently, the duo, often referred to as “The New Outkast,” is featured prominently in the Too High to Riot documentary, created by Queens MC and J.Cole Dreamville signee, Bas. We caught up with them to get their take on the music industry, the new documentary and connecting with J. Cole.
How did you get your start?
Johnny: [We are] immersed back in our culture. It has been coming along and coming full circle. [Before] touring [we were] struggling, working at Dominoes and call-centers.
Doctur: [We were] the most independent. We didn’t have producers. Taught ourselves how to record, how to do everything. We didn’t get management until 2013. We just made music in our dorm room.
Did you finish college to have other careers to fall back on in case music didn’t work?
Doctur: [My] B.S. is in psychology, started in journalism. Ain’t no fall back. We went to college because we had scholarships. It was music or death to me.
Johnny: I majored in graphic design started as architecture. Studying the humanities shows social progression. Everything I learned throughout life I put in this music.
You caught J. Cole's attention—how did that come about?
Doctur: We were on tour with Ab-Soul. Cole was impressed with what he saw. [We went on] well before the main act, but we were still on the tour. He was letting us record in his space. We was friends at that point.
You're compared to OutKast frequently.
Johnny: We rep the hometown. That’s the first comparison. Sometimes we get compared to dead prez and the Pharcyde. Our goals have never changed. We continue to get better. Breaking things down to the purest form, to the elements. Know the elements of our sound. More visceral in the now state. Not in some theory land. We know how to do all these things, now when it comes to the output.
How did you link with Bas?
Johnny: We was with Bas on the Ab-Soul tour. They’re like a multi-cultural band. We from the South. It was good vibes from the beginning. [We] believe in the same thing, believe in the same principles. [It’s a] give and take operation.
Doctur: Two months with him on the road. He kept the communication up We have a good time. He’s that type of person. Can’t be with some people you build friction with. It made good business sense and good connection sense.
What is it like to work with Tidal?
Doctur: Good for artists. Gives you an audience that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
Johnny: They just let us put out our experience and perspectives. [They asked] What do y’all have? This is what we have for the people.
Doctur: [We’re] hard working artists enjoying the journey.
Johnny: Show love and you get love. Family is what you make it. Everybody willingly bonded together. It wasn’t some prima donna type thing.
The Bas Too High to Riot documentary is currently streaming on Tidal. Check it out below.