EarthGang’s Royalty marks an ascent up the food chain at J. Cole’s Dreamville Records. The duo of Doctur Dot and Johnny Venus prove to be one of Cole’s most compelling artists by completing the puzzle of their Rags and Robots EPs. Comedian DC Young Fly connects the dots with his stoned Uber driver persona in the final chapter of EarthGang’s deconstructed album.
Although the tandem built an impressive discography prior to inking a deal with Cole, they seem keenly aware these EPs are the starting point for many listeners. So Royalty, much like its predecessors, features Dot and Venus putting their best foot forward. With a runtime of fewer than 25 minutes and three of eight songs being skits, this project is just an appetizer for the main course — their upcoming Mirror Land album — unless paired with the other EPs for the full meal.
Short and digestible music plays to EarthGang’s favor though, especially in today’s landscape with thousands of artists fighting for listeners’ attention. The duo offers quality over quantity, packing each song with a punch of deft flows, expertly crafted rhymes, live instrumentation and production reminiscent of the Soulquarians. Dot and Venus give listeners a taste of their versatility, rattling off rewind-worthy bars on “Build” just as well as they calmly rap and harmonize on the hypnotic “Off The Lot.”
What’s most notable about this EP is its content. The title, Royalty, is more aspirational than a descriptor of the duo’s current mindset. Dot and Venus are on the come up, but the hard times aren’t out of their rearview mirror. These two are still striving for more after scrapping and clawing for an opportunity, so this sentiment permeates the lyrics.
On the celebratory “Cocktail,” Venus quips, “Couple shows for a couple pennies/ But I know that they fuckin’ with me.” Later, Dot raps, “I used to be just like you, keep in mind we do this shit for the freeski” on the Ari Lennox-assisted “Nothing But The Best.” Those humble origins are clearly engrained in their musical DNA.
Royalty is a fun ride while it lasts, giving listeners a dose of relatable raps mixed in with humorous skits. Like fellow Spillage Village member and Dreamville signee J.I.D., Dot and Venus have emerged from the Hip Hop hotbed of Atlanta without peddling the familiar tropes and sounds associated with the city. With projects like Royalty, they’ve set themselves apart and shown why Cole was smart to sign two talented MCs carving out their own lane.