Release Date: Jan 24, 2012
Record label: DECON
Gangrene is about as disgusting as Hip Hop gets – and that’s a high compliment. The second disturbed brainchild (not including Greneberg) of the Alchemist and Oh No, Vodka & Ayahuasca kicks off with a revolting sample of someone puking their guts up before segueing into “Gladiator Shit,” a song that’s strung around a scuzzy guitar loop that threatens to molest your headphones. 40 minutes later the fantastically dirty session ends with the charmingly-titled “Livers For Sale,” which is underscored by a warped-but-sweet sample that brings to mind a beat the Supreme Clientele incarnation of Ghost Deini should be wailing over.
With producer/rapper the Alchemist and rapper/producer Oh No behind the project, Gangrene is dirty, underground hip-hop excellence as expected, but Vodka & Ayahuasca takes it to another level, or realm. "This is an acid trip/Rancid spit" is how this album's title track explains the conceptual rip in space and time that's laid down throughout, as Hendrix headbands and hi-tops come together like rap was spawned with the help of George Clinton's Funkadelic rather than George Clinton's Parliament. "Auralac Bags" smells as much of old reefer as it does of modern indo, and even as tracks like "Dump Truck" thump with the modern boom-bap, a sitar or whammy-bar is bound to sneak in, making sure the total album experience lives up to its mind-bending cover art.
It might say something about the way things accelerate these days that it already feels like Gangrene have been around for ages. But tracing their lineage back through last year's Roc Marciano collaboration Greneberg and 2010's Gutter Water brings up a still-recent origin point in the Alchemist's 2009 all-star blowout, Chemical Warfare. The precedent for the collaboration between Alchemist and fellow producer-slash-MC Oh No was strongly established on cuts like "Acts of Violence" and "Under Siege", a couple of cartoonishly sinister tracks that pushed indie/street crossover rawness into a no-fucks-given irreverence about how raw it actually was.
If you’d originally mistaken Gangrene as a one-off side project when they released their debut, Gutter Water, in 2010, you’d likely have been in the majority. Oh No was a critically celebrated Stones Throw beat-maker best known for being Madlib’s little brother and having an equally eclectic taste, crafting beat CDs entirely out of Ethiopian psychedelic rock, Mediterranean funk and whatever Egon could scrounge up in his Now-Again vaults. Alchemist, meanwhile, had spent the better part of the decade producing for groups such as Mobb Deep, The LOX and Dilated Peoples (as well as their many solo and affiliate projects) with a sort of workmanlike vigour that earned the Los Angeles native a reputation as a torch bearer for the native sounds of hardcore New York hip-hop.
Vodka & Ayahuasca is Oh No and the Alchemist's second full-length as Gangrene. Its title is a shout out to two very different drugs: alcohol and hallucinogens. For the hell of it, let's assume that the vodka is responsible for this album's raw raps, and ayahuasca--a South American plant noted for its psychoactive properties--is responsible for its production.
The Alchemist is a producer/MC from California who’s been on the cusp of obtaining superproducer status for years now, what with his sample-heavy beats supplying chunky backdrops for everybody from Eminem to Raekwon. Oh No is a producer/MC, also from California, who’s been kicking around the state’s ever-thriving indie-rap scene with commendable success for the better part of the past decade. Together, the two form Gangrene, something of an indie-rap supergroup to anybody who’s spent time immersed in the back catalogs of Decon or Stones Throw.
Gangrene, the producer/rapper duo consisting of boom-bap sample wizard The Alchemist and underground favorite Oh No isn’t going anywhere. What started off looking like a one-off project (their 2010 debut, Gutter Water), has turned into a full on group. Last year, the two added underground rhyme slinger Roc Marciano to the team and formed Greneberg, releasing an excellent self-titled EP.