Earthgang Hip Hop Duo
Earthgang outside of Chinatown Noodle King: Shot by Elizabeth Shehata (@elizabethshehata)

Would You Kill a Clone of Yourself? Earthgang Says ‘In a Heartbeat’

Sitting on a purple, velvet lounge and sipping on mango smoothies, VICE sat down with Atlanta hip-hop duo Earthgang to talk about life without social media, the “correct” way to clone yourself and the inevitable downfall of human art.
Adele Luamanuvae
Sydney, AU

It’s a standardly humid, ominously quiet afternoon on Sydney’s Sussex Street when we meet Olu and WowGr8 of Atlanta hip hop duo, Earthgang, outside of a chinese restaurant. Both Olu and WowGr8 don’t seem too phased by the grey skies above (a result of El Nino) given the subtropical climate of Atlanta, as they pull up dressed in a lot more clothing than most Sydneysiders that day.

Olu stands with certainty in a black and white, fluffy hat, a leather vest with a black tee underneath, and black, wide leg raver-like pants. WowGr8 is a lot more subtle, confidently wearing a purple graphic tee, camo pants and sneakers. I am wiping the sweat building along my hairline as if I’m face-to-face with God themself. For some fans, that’s exactly who I meet today.


Superstars of Sussex Street. Earthgang shot by Elizabeth Shehata.

As a dynamic, Olu is known as the free-spirited weird kid, mainly for the way he roars and yelps over tracks, manipulating his voice in colourful ways to preach the gospel of Earthgang like a pastor on Sunday. WowGr8 balances this out with his contributions of conscious, thought provoking lyricism – an often overlooked facet of Earthgang’s storytelling.

At the core of it, Olu and WowGr8 are here to speak their truth. Being unabashedly critical of society’s environmental, financial and cultural losses isn’t new to them. They’re real people with dreams, fears and concerns for the future like everyone else.

Their latest EP, RIP Human Art, comments on the dominance of algorithms and the limitless power of human art. In a world increasingly full of AI humans, holograms and deepfakes, dread around the future of technology is rational. And, for Earthgang, the death of human art is nigh.

VICE: A big theme across the project RIP Human Art is AI and the way technology is moving. Do you feel we're nearing the end of human authenticity?

WowGr8: We're already past that point. It’s one of those things you don't notice until in retrospect. But, I will say, whatever humanity that you relate to and understand…you should explore the furthest facets of it.

Olu: I just feel like people need to slow the fuck down. Everybody needs to chill the fuck out. Everything is so rushed now. People feel like they gotta make three projects in one year to stay relevant and people can pay attention to them. If that's what you want to do, cool. But great things take time. I want people to lean more into that in the future.'


How much time do you spend on your phone?

Both in unison: Too much.

WowGr8: I would love to do a year without it at least.

Olu: It's easy when you have no service in places, but since I've been out here, I've been on it. But I've just been listening to music, meditations, YouTube speeches and lectures. Sometimes it's not technology, it's just social media.

WowGr8: Social media feels weird sometimes. It's like looking at a mirror in a mirror in a mirror, reflections of reflections. So I'm tryna slow down with that and read books in my hands. I used to read on my phone, but it's different to hold it.

Have you seen The Social Dilemma before?

WowGr8: Yeah, that documentary is actually hard. It's really crazy.

Olu: I haven’t.

For context, it explores the algorithm and how it works. It shows the algorithm as three different human beings making strategic decisions on what pops up on your feed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

WowGr8: They show you stuff that you don't click on. If your phone screen stays on it long enough, it'll come up again. Shit's crazy. It's creepy as hell.

Having a documentary to tell you that social media is bad for you is scary, but we still don't do shit about it. Humans are addicted to that fear.


WowGr8: That's the worst thing about it for me – I know it's an addiction. And everybody says they're not addicted, but we're on it all the time.

Olu: No one really understands what it does to the human condition. It's just super interesting how social media has taken over so much of the human conscience.

WowGr8: I would love for that shit to go away for a year. Just to see what happens. I don't mean like a big revolution. I just need to not see the words "social media". I kind of long for that world. I got a kid now, and I pray that social media becomes a thing just for old people. I pray my kids think that shit's lame.

What is a world without social media?

WowGr8: I think right now we're in a post-social media world. At least one or two generations are gonna have a shaky start with talking to people in a regular way. So many women I've dated, I've met on Instagram. No matter what, the algorithm delivered us to each other. Even if the chemistry is perfect when we get together, we were delivered to each other by equations. I would love to see the world learn something as initially simple as romance.

Olu: I would love to see people more in the present moment. I would love to see people outside. I know that sounds super simple and shit, but more people are spending most of their time on social media, even looking at vacation places and beautiful places to go. You gotta go there by looking at your phone first. But go there to be there. Put your phone down. See how it changes your life.


Robophobia is the next project that follows RIP Human Art. The title is pretty straightforward – a phobia of robots. Is that what the EP encompasses?

WowGr8: It's the same kind of satirical tone, but we're not telling you where to go. We're just putting the conversation out there. The tone of the project is very futuristic. It sounds like cyber-punk music. It's like a glimpse into the future.

You talked about the controversy of creating an AI rapper before, and we're kind of seeing reiterations of that in a lot of different things.

WowGr8: There’s social media supermodels, it's insane.

These things are becoming commonplace now.

Olu: I like to keep as clear boundaries as I can between real life and digital life. Of course I love going to the movies like everybody else. Of course I got social media accounts like everybody else. But ain't nothing better than real life for me, look at this *gestures to his mango smoothie*.

Ain't no way they're going to try and give me this in a meta world. I want a real mango smoothie. There will always be a section of humanity that wants the real thing.

Earthgang in Chinatown Noodle King

Olu enjoying the mango smoothie in question. Shot by Elizabeth Shehata.

WowGr8: A lot is gonna be extremely blurry for everybody born after 2016. They're not adults yet, so they're growing up with this in real time. That's what's gonna be shocking. But at the same time, I'm a futurist at heart. I want to get to a point where we don’t need our bodies, we're just floating in the cosmos. But I also love cutting the grass. I love doing things that remind me I am on Earth.


Olu: I'm just very sensory-oriented and it can be hard for me to enjoy digital things. When I do drugs, I want to be off my phone more. I don't want to have a connection to things that aren’t visceral or organic.

Do you like Black Mirror?

Olu: I love it.

WowGr8: What I love about Black Mirror is how close it is to now. Eventually we're gonna be audited and there will be human rankings. That shit’s crazy. One thing I think about a lot is the possibility of backing up your intelligence, your consciousness. If that's even remotely possible, who's to say we're not already doing it?

Of course, even cloning. Cloning is terrifying.

WowGr8: I kind of fuck with cloning. I wouldn't mind having a couple of clones with some spare parts. When I get older, I can just get a young heart from them real quick. But to be me, you gotta have my experiences.

Olu: You don't give your clone your brain? Your memories?

WowGr8: Where are you drawing your memories from? You can clone yourself now, without memories.

Olu: Why wouldn't you give your clone your memories?

WowGr8: How are you doing that?

Olu: The same way you give them your heart?

WowGr8: That's not how it works. Your memories are your experiences.


Olu: It's not stored within your brain tissue?

WowGr8: YOUR brain. Your clone's brain is a brand new brain. This is like saying that if you have damage in your heart, your clone will have the same damage in their heart.

Olu: Well you just said “a young heart” so it'd be the same type of heart.

WowGr8: Not necessarily.

Olu: Why not?

WowGr8 and Olu go back and forth about this a little while longer before coming to an agreement on the process of cloning.

Olu: Well, I just wouldn't have my clones doing personal things with people.

WowGr8: How are you gonna stop that? They'll come ready to do the tasks you want to do, they'll fall in love with your girlfriend. You're gonna have to kill them.

Would you be able to kill a copy of yourself?

Both in unison: Hell yeah.

Olu: In a heartbeat.

WowGr8: Hell yeah. If I'm right here, then who are you? I wouldn't even think about it, I would think "copy".

Olu: "Threat!".

How do you feel about self-help books?

Olu: I love them.

WowGr8: A lot of them are bullshit.

Olu: Why do you think they're bullshit?

Another back-and-forth ensues about the effects of self-help books. This time, they agree to disagree.


Olu: A good book is also a self-help book. Self-help books aren't trying to teach you how to read or think. You know what's a good self-help book? How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

How much self help and philosophy is integrated into the music?

Olu: It's intentional, but it's not blatant.

WowGr8: The connection that people make happens when they try to find a philosophy that bridges it.

What's one thing that keeps you up at night?

Olu: Good conversation, ideas. Other than that, I'd rather be asleep.

WowGr8: I’ll just be jotting down arbitrary anythings then I look at the time and it's 1AM.

If you could change something in your life, would you? Or would you ride it out?

Olu: Change is good. I probably wouldn't want to do things over. But I would want to have second or third chances of doing things.

WowGr8: I wish I was born with five billion just out the gate. In an alternate universe, I would like to see what five year old me would do with access to all of that. Other than that, I love my life.

Adele is the Junior Writer & Producer for VICE AU/NZ. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter here.

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