Deep Tropics | Atlanta's EARTHGANG & a Night of Nashville Hip-Hop
Evan Dale // Mitch Dumler // Aug 28, 2019
‘Why is Top Golf bumping so hard?’ I asked unaware that our Uber was about to pull into the overflowing parking lot. It being our first time in Nashville and only coming for the Deep Tropics Music Festival for the weekend, we were in the dark about the festival’s pre-party being located at a venue built into one block end of Top Golf itself. Not at all the expected location for a hip-hop show, The Cowan would turn out to be full of surprises that night.
We arrived early, wanting to scope out the small club for good spots. A prime theater lush with bars and an intimate stage, anything resembling a driving range was forgotten about instantly. We headed upstairs to the balcony, grabbed a pair of spots at the railing, and awaited openers to grace the stage. Our knowledge of the Nashville hip-hop scene was, like most people’s preconception of the city, limited. We had been drawn to the show by the headliner, Atlanta’s EARTHGANG, having done limited research into the other acts because we knew anyone opening for the illustrious, high-energy Dreamville duo would have to come with an unmistakable energy all their own. And from the start, we were anything but disappointed.
Bryant Taylorr (who made it abundantly known that his name was stylized with two R’s) led it all off. From the get-go it became obvious to us that akin to Memphis and Chattanooga, Nashville too was home to a one-of-a-kind take on the Tennessee and greater Southern soundscapes. The young lyricist and vocalist is the spitting image of modern, transcendent talent in hip-hop where vocals and penmanship weave seamlessly in and out of one another and in and out of high-fidelity production. His set was driven by balance and emotion-evoking vocal displays that broke through the crowd with an unexpected R&B-adjacent vibe. Fans of artists like SAINt JHN who effortlessly combine styles of the past into a fluid form of the future are at home in Taylorr’s powerful delivery.
From there, a familiar sound. Our sole dive into Nashville hip-hop before arriving at the Cowan that night came in the form of a cut-throat lyricist by the name of Reaux Marquez. Meditative delivery and conscious writing drew us to him more than a year ago when a string of single releases and an accompanying video first introduced us to his talent. Something unavoidably traditional in his cadence and storytelling ability make him and his team a refreshing reminder of hip-hop’s namesake and strongest longstanding pillars: rhythm and poetry. Unbeknownst ahead of time to his presence at the show, we instantly recognized his unforgettable music. It was kismet. And in balance with Bryant Taylorr, Reaux Marquez’s old-school sonic texture in combination with inventive cadence, rough vocals, and experimental modern aesthetic granted the widest of looks into Nashville’s hip-hop spectrum.
As it would later be explained to us, the underground of Nashville’s hip-hop scene is an intimate one built on longstanding friendships and a collaborative spirit that have brought all the city’s highlighting artists up together. And if one of those artists has made and continues to make incredible efforts in teamsmanship and growth, it’s Case Arnold. For fans of hip-hop, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of him as his presence goes far beyond Nashville. A pilot of the city’s scene, an architect of the Deep Tropics hip-hop influence, and the engineer behind EARTHGANG’s opening lineup that night, Case Arnold put on an opening set worthy of his glowing status. Another example of a modern hip-hop artist having a knack at switching their lanes between the sung and the rapped, Case Arnold, refined and unique as they come, will continue to be a key artist to watch as the scene he’s helped champion continues to gain national and international exposure.
Another brash change of pace followed on the heels of Case Arnold. Chuck Indigo, a local rapper and vocalist whose flavor is reminiscent of artists like Bryson Tiller and Brent Faiyaz, is a different kind of transcendent force edging closer to the inspiration of R&B. With short projects in concurrent years exploring the vastness of his range, Chuck Indigo came with an extraordinary amount of material that even as a solo artist, pulled into focus stronger than any other performer that evening the broad scope of Nashville’s hip-hop and R&B scene. It’s a scene that as proved by Indigo’s talent and vibrant performance is bubbling over with underrated musicians experimenting wildly to define Nashville’s emerging auditory aesthetic.
In quick succession, one final opener, Tim Gent who stands alongside Case Arnold as likely the most well-known Nashville rapper, brought the necessary explosiveness and energy to prime the crowd for EARTHGANG. Fond of trap beats and a violent cadence, his set got everyone moving in the right way. His own path continues to be defined by burgeoning exposure and a constantly more-refined sound. Akin to select tracks from Case Arnold and the entire set from Reauz Marquez, Nashville’s knack for hip-hop’s roots was displayed undeniable yet unique.
By the time the final set break between the well-rounded and exceptionally talented Nashville underground and the anticipation of the now internationally acclaimed EARTHGANG came, The Cowan was effervescent. It being the South, Nashville’s appreciation for hip-hop is omnipotent and bold. Subsequently, set breaks DJ’d by knowledgeable and talented emcees are every bit as key to the show as the sets themselves. A rising energy, a slowly evolving pace and aesthetic, undeniable anticipation had the audience exactly where EARHTGANG wanted them. And on the heels of the incredible success born from Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers lll, EARTHGANG was right where the audience wanted them, too. There could not have been a better moment to catch EARTHGANG at such an intimate venue.
For more than an hour, the Atlanta duo redefining what it means to be modern rappers, tore through their hits, delivering ungodly pace, underappreciated vocal skills, and an unending bout of vivacity and animation. It wasn’t simply good music. It was good theater as Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot paraded around the stage in signature experimental cuts of high fashion and signature experimental takes on the future of hip-hop. EARTHGANG is undoubtedly one of the best live performances on the modern hip-hop circuit.
Though not from Nashville, the Atlanta duo’s proximity to their home made the set blend seamlessly into the openers. Nashville is a unique tributary feeding into the Mecca of international hip-hop that is Atlanta. Per such, chemistry and flow between all acts that evening not only merged seamlessly, but also set the stage for the greater Deep Tropics festival where acts from around the world would converge on Nashville in celebration of the city’s deep culture.