In 2015, archaeologists from the University of Idaho descended on a stretch of River Street near downtown Boise and began digging. No, they weren't searching for dinosaur bones: They were on the hunt for artifacts from a long-forgotten predominantly black neighborhood in Boise.
They were in search of an African American side of Boise's past, but when EarthGang touches down in Boise, the band will bring along its Afrofuturist vision in tow. An Atlanta-based hip-hop duo, its members Olu (aka Johnny Venus) and WowGr8 released their new album, Mirrorland, on J.Cole's record label Dreamville, Interscope Records and Spillage Village in September.
"It's really colorful. It's really dangerous. It's really trippy. It's literally Freaknik Atlanta in the summertime—folks riding around in cars with big rims with paint on their faces," Olu told Pitchfork about Mirrorland.
In its music videos and onstage, EarthGang cuts a vivid profile—one that's part celebration of black culture, and part positive vision for that culture's possibilities. Earlier this month, the duo showed up on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. Their appearance included a performance of "This Side," a song that offers up sharp criticism of the status quo and yearns for a brighter future: "Put my life online for sale / Put that wish up on a star / Put that money on myself / Sometimes I'm just by myself / Whole future, yes, I am / A livin' god, yes, I am."
EarthGang's stylings are just a piece of the growing interest in Afrofuturism, a movement among African academics, artists and critics concerned with the black perception of the past, present and possible future, growing from a term coined in a 1993 essay by Mark Dery into a movement. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were treated to Wakanda, the fictional homeland of Black Panther, which features advanced technology, and black prosperity and preeminence on the world stage.
EarthGang got a standing-O for its performance on The Tonight Show, and the odds are good it will get another when it takes the Knitting Factory Stage on Monday, Nov. 18. Tickets are $20-$79, and the doors open at 7 p.m.