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REVIEW: Earthgang, Mick Jenkins Ignite Sold Out Crowd (Varsity Theater)

Promotional art for Earthgang’s Mirrorland.

Varsity Theater remains the pinnacle of intimate, yet still riveting concerts from music’s most exciting up-and-comers. Located in Dinkytown, the celebrated theater welcomed rising Atlanta hip-hop duo, Earthgang, on their Welcome to Mirrorland Tour Wednesday night. Accompanied by Portland MC Wynne (currently enrolled at the University of Oregon), Spillage Village member Jurdan Bryant, and the prodigious Chicago artist Mick Jenkins, the sold-out Minneapolis crowd was gifted with a diversity of young and energetic styles combining for a masterful depiction of modern hip hop. 

After early openers Wynne and Jurdan Bryant warmed up the crowd, the main opener Mick Jenkins entered the stage to perform songs from his new EP, The Circus. Self-described as a “prelude to the album,” Jenkins’ new project is the epitome of jazz rap. Jenkins strolled around the stage like a king wandering his kingdom delivering slick bar after bar from his new songs. The crowd’s favorites included the braggadocious triumph, “Flaunt”, and the EP’s most streamed track, “Carefree”. The young Chicago rapper is far from new to the game, though, and made sure to play some of his fan favorites from past projects, including “Jazz”, a rap ode to capturing the curiosity and courage of the genre. Mick also showed his surprising vocals, crooning over repeated bass lines and piano riffs. Through his half-hour set, Mick created an environment of relaxation and joyous anticipation for the main act.

The featured act, Earthgang, coming off of their third official studio album release, have grown exponentially over the past year. Last summer, Earthgang rose to hip-hop stardom through several essential collaborations in the much anticipated and celebrated Revenge of the Dreamers III compilation. With diverse and recognizable verses throughout the album’s many hits, including fan favorites “Down Bad” and “Sacrifices”, the pure rapping and singing abilities of the duo were on full display. Building on this momentum, Earthgang released Mirrorland, a 14-track masterpiece designed to capture the perspectives and diverse experiences of their hometown of Atlanta. The album earned Earthgang great recognition, with featured performances from some of R&B and Hip Hop’s biggest names, including Young Thug, T-Pain, and Kehlani, and was their highest charting project to date. Brash, proud, and unapologetically original, their unique voice and sound ring through uplifting pieces, such as “Bank” and “Proud of U”, while also including more introspective pieces, like “This Side.” 

Entering the stage to tremendous applause, Earthgang began the show with the intro to their most recent project, “LaLa Challenge”. They then followed the lively opener with the top-streaming song on the project, “Top Down,” as the now packed audience bounced along to the crazy instrumentals. While covering most of the main hits from their new album, Earthgang seemed unafraid to play their older tracks, also including a recording of an unreleased collaboration with recently deceased artist, Mac Miller.

Later on in the show, the duo asked the crowd for a moment of silence to honor not only their colleague, Mac, but also all of those who had “died doing what they loved.” The somber moment didn’t last long, however, and the show shifted back to its celebratory and lively ways. Whether it was hosting an impromptu dance-off on stage between lucky hand-picked members of the audience, or encouraging the crowd to mosh to the fast-paced “Down Bad,” Earthgang ensured maximum engagement from the audience, making sure everyone left smiling.

Starting the year as mostly unknown, underground rappers, Earthgang has blossomed into certifiable stars, ready to take their place among hip hop’s most beloved acts. It was their first sold-out show in Minneapolis, and something tells me they will have many more to come.