The best rap collectives operate like chosen families. Placing trust in people who are on the same wavelength can sharpen skills and tease out unrealized talent. Groups from the Wu-Tang Clan and the Dungeon Family to Odd Future and Pro Era were founded on this ethos, feeding into a whole greater than the sum of its parts. I felt this energy while listening to members of Atlanta’s Spillage Village collective—rappers J.I.D and WowGr8 (of EarthGang), vocalist Mereba, and producer/vocalist Benji—crack jokes and reminisce about the group’s origins. 

The collective first formed in the early 2010s after J.I.D and EarthGang met while studying at Hampton University. Dorm room cyphers and recording sessions laid the groundwork for the more serious journey the trio would face once they were kicked out of school. “When I even first thought of the name Spillage Village, I was still sleeping in my mom’s basement type shit,” WowGr8 remembers warmly. The three had stoked a passion in each other which would only grow as they began releasing projects and absorbing more members like 6LACK, Mereba, Hollywood JB, Jurdan Bryant, and Benji.

The group’s first three projects, 2014’s Bears Like This, 2015’s Bears Like This Too, and 2016’s Bears Like This Too Much, predated each individual member’s solo success and helped establish their group dynamic: come together to record, break apart to work on solo music, absorb new members, wash, rinse, repeat. During my conversation with WowGr8 and Benji, I mentioned how this sounds like the Avengers' strategy—heroes coming together for a common good before heading out on solo adventures. 

The morale boost that comes from working together shows in other members, too. “In general, when you’re around greatness, you sharpen one another,” Mereba explains to me on a separate call with J.I.D. “It brings out a certain side of me that I really appreciate.” Six years' worth of sharpening and camaraderie has led to Spilligion, the collective’s major-label debut album released last Friday, September 25. Recorded over the course of two months at the peak of COVID-mandated quarantine, the album brought every member of the Village to a house J.I.D rented while recording his upcoming third studio album. The sessions yielded music that blurs the lines between Atlanta trap, neo-soul, R&B, and folk music, a gamble that resulted in the most holistic music of their career. 

It’s hard to say whether Spillage Village would’ve been able to complete a project of this magnitude without COVID forcing the extremely busy collective indoors. Spilligion speaks to the power of their group dynamic. It’s the Endgame to their Avengers team-up, the spoils for the community bonds they trusted from the beginning.     

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