Fresh off their Mirrorland Tour, Atlanta hip-hop duo EarthGang hit the stage at Foellinger Hall on Wednesday night.

Known for their quick-hitting bars and high-energy performances, Olu (also known as Johnny Venus) and WowGr8 (also known as Doctur Dot) were at ease from the jump, amicably connecting with a crowd of about 500 that consisted of mostly students.


EarthGang came out and opened with “Top Down”, off their 2019 album Mirrorland, before moving into a variety of their older hits like “Missed Calls," off their second album Strays with Rabies.

In this black and white photo, a member of EarthGang raps into a microphone. He wears dark pants and a bright, puffy coat that is unzipped to reveal a bare torso. His movement is captured in the long exposure of the photo.Photo by Jack Pompe.

Since signing to J. Cole’s Dreamville label, EarthGang has steadily moved into mainstream hip-hop’s radar, showcased by their millions of monthly listeners on Spotify and extensive features on the Dreamville collaboration album Revenge of the Dreamers III, which debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200. The duo played their 2017 single “Artificial” before moving into some of their prominent songs like “Proud of You”, which features Atlanta heavyweight Young Thug , and their contributions to Revenge of the Dreamers III.

A member of EarthGang wears an Eighties-style track suit. He raps into a microphone and looks directly into the camera. The DJ for the group can be seen in the background. The Photo is black and white.Photo by Jack Pompe.

They also showed love to the students in attendance for braving the grind of college. The two actually began making music in high school, but EarthGang came into fruition while they were in their dorm room at Hampton University. “Working multiple jobs, still in this b**** going to school, we f*** with y’all,” Olu said to a big cheer from the audience.

In this blurry image, a shirtless member of EarthGang raps into the microphone, hands raised to the ceiling.Photo by Jack Pompe.

The energy hit a new level when they jumped into Dreamville-hit “Down Bad”, which features J. Cole and JID, among some other labelmates and prominent Atlanta artists. WowGr8 declared that the crowd to be at a solid nine, but that “they needed to turn it from a nine to a ten,” before breaking into “Wells Fargo”, which seemed to be a crowd favorite. Moshing in front of and in between the rows of Foellinger’s seats, EarthGang closed out with a rowdy rendition of “Bank”, a standout from “Mirrorland.”

A blurry, red tinted photo that shows a distorted image of a shirtless man rapping on stage.Photo by Jack Pompe.

Before the co-founders of Atlanta collective Spillage Village came out, Champaign MC Gatson supported with a 30-minute set. Gatson broke out of the norm for openers, getting a crafty with a living room set-up on stage that featured a recliner chair, TV and a projector screen that played videos to accompany his set.

A long exposure photo that emphasizes the teal and red stage lights. The motion of the rapper gesturing with his hand is captured in the long exposure.Photo by Jack Pompe.

About midway through, Gatson cut to the projector and played a the intro to his “XXL” video, then broke into a rousing rendition of the song in front of a custom-built square light that cast the MC in a more impressive light (no offense to ol’ Foellinger’s light system). He also touched on how the opportunity to open for EarthGang gave him a unique platform to perform in front of mostly students, bridging the gap between Champaign-Urbana’s creative scene and the university’s. Often, Gatson noted, it’s hard to cross over and break into the student consciousness.

A long exposure photo of a shirtless rapper making a fierce face as if he is grunting. The movement of his dreadlocks is caught in the stage lights. Photo by Jack Pompe.

Check out Smile Politely's feature on Gatson here.You can check out our coverage of the Draft Day EP by Gatson here.

EarthGang was the latest installment at Foellinger for Star Course, the RSO that books shows on campus, after indie pop group Peach Pit and Chicago’s Doja Cat performed there back in November and October. The duo, who clearly love to play some pranks, appeared to close their set in an abrupt, nonchalant manner, which actually sent the crowd into confused yelling and even a few boos. 

“Alright, we EarthGang and we out,” WowGr8 said matter-of-factly,” before he, Olu, and their DJ, DJ Dark Knight, sprinted off the stage. The crowd realized they’d been punked only seconds later, exploding into cheers when they ran back out and broke into two more songs.

A close-up on one of the rappers, shirtless. An Egyptian-eye necklace hangs around their neck. The edges of the photo are blurry, obscuring his hand with the microphone and his hat.Photo by Jack Pompe.

Olu also shouted out Illinois for its recent successes in football and basketball, though it seemed he mixed up a couple of wins over prominent Big Ten foes Wisconsin and Michigan State. “We be watching y’all football games,” Olu said. “You be beating Ohio State and Michigan!” EarthGang stuck around onstage well after their set. For at least 20 minutes, the duo signed dozens on dozens of shoes, shirts, tickets and posters — and they even signed cash, cards and the set list, which one student peeled off the stage as a souvenir.

Top Image by Jack Pompe.