EarthGang See an Ally in J. Cole
EarthGang are the latest artists to sign to J. Cole's Dreamville Records. The Atlanta duo, comprised of Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot, are the the second act from the Spillage Village crew alongside J.I.D to become part of the Dreamville family. For EarthGang, signing to Cole made sense because it opened doors for bigger opportunities. Early on in their careers, Venus and Dot were fully against inking with major labels.
"It’s funny being signed because before we met Barry, our manager, before we met Zeke and J. Cole, our mentality was fuck the label," Johnny tells XXL. "We’ve been promoting ourselves. We’re from Atlanta. Niggas in Atlanta wasn’t showing us any love. We’ve just been getting it how we live, man. We booked all our shows. Any nigga that fucked with us was under the age of 25."
Their DIY mentality made them a bit apprehensive to look elsewhere for help. "We recorded our own music, we made our own artwork, we put together our own listening sessions, we did everything," he continues. "What the fuck we need a label for? But going along through this process and actually being signed to a label with people who don’t want to fuck you over, people who understand the vision."
With sights set on a billion-dollar future, Johnny Venus knew EarthGang signing with Dreamville Records was the right move. "The benefits of having people like Zeke, Barry and Cole in your corner was…it's kind’ve just like muscle," Johnny shares. "You need that. When you’re first coming in, especially when you have an idea and things on your mind that you want to accomplish. We’ve been doing this for 10 years and we met Zeke, Barry and Cole five years ago. We understand that you can’t do everything by yourself. you can’t become a billionaire, a millionaire by yourself. It doesn’t happen that way. We learned it's OK to trust people with your ideas and let's all come together and share our thoughts. It’s just a beautiful thing."
The apprehension stemmed from the fear of veteran artists using younger artist's sounds and creativity to better their former's brand rather than having a mutual respect and relationship with one another. J. Cole was a genuine fan of EarthGang and only wanted to help them get better as artists.
The former XXL Freshman had reached out to Johnny and Doctur Dot before they were even fully established. "Why Cole? Because he reached out early, like we were dumb underdeveloped," Dot explains of that period when he first got wind that J. Cole was feeling their music. "This was before Strays With Rabies. Barry was our manager by then and told us Cole fuck with our shit but I didn’t really believe him. We didn’t believe it for a while and it wasn’t until we went on tour with Ab-Soul that Cole came out to a show to watch us. This was 2014. He said he’s working on getting this studio set-up at his house and when I do fall through. We would drive up to North Carolina to the spot out there."
As time progressed, EarthGang began to realize that Cole wasn't trying to use them. Instead, he only wanted to help. "The more we just talk to him, it just came apparent for us that almost any other move would’ve been kind of lateral that we was getting offered at the time," Doctur Dot adds. "It was like are you going to go up or go South. And the type of environment that Cole provide it didn’t feel like no nigga who was trying to steal no sauce. But the more conversations, the more sessions and the more you talk to him you knew he was serious and legit person."
Now, EarthGang is embarking on a new path. They released their new EP, Rags, this week (Sept. 1). The five-song project features guest appearances from J.I.D, Childish Major and Mick Jenkins. Rags is the first of three EPs that will lead up to EarthGang's upcoming album, Mirror Land. It's about to be a big 2017 for Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot.
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