Artist: Gangrene (The Alchemist + Oh No)
Album: Vodka & Ayahuasca
Never in my entire career as a music reviewer have I come across an album title more intriguing and more esoteric than Vodka & Ayahuasca. For those who have little to no clue what the hell ayahuasca is, no worries. As far as the album is concern, all you need to know is that The Alchemist and Oh No mysteriously conjured up this ancient brew from South America, combined it into a powerful cocktail with vodka, and dumped it into your phonographs to create a psychedelic, spiritual journey for listening pleasure. Whether that makes sense to you or whether you’re convinced vodka and spirituality belongs in the same sentence, again, no worries. All will be explained.
In comparison to their last album Gutter Water, the production is grittier, grimier, and trippier than ever. Although the album begins with the very forgettable cut “Gladiator Music,” which sounds more like a throwaway G. Rap cut than a Gangrene jam, Alchemist and Oh No amplify the heat until thermostats melt with their next track, “Flame Thrower.” The instrumental, ironically, is icier and groovier in its tone than the title suggests, but in culmination with Al’s and Oh No’s poignant, plasma radiant verses, the track is a certified banger. An obvious album highlight is their lead single “Vodka and Ayahuasca.” Rumbling bass lines, dizzying scratches, and undulating guitar strings make this cut a head knocking sensation. When the lead guitar crescendos into psychotropic madness, so too, does Gangrene when hammering the nail on the head with their “acid trip” rap lyrics. Other stand outs from the album include “Drink It Up” featuring Roc Marciano and “Dump Truck” featuring Prodigy. The real standout on this album, however, is “The Groove,” and Gangrene couldn’t have picked a better name for the record. The production is thick with booming bass, cascading piano patterns, and hallucinogenic, chopped samples, and it is arguably the most leading instrumentation that Oh No produced for the album. To no surprise, the rap duo lyrically ups the ante with perhaps some of the sharpest lyricism fans may have heard yet from either two. Oh No swan dives first into the maelstrom he created throwing a few darts at the critics with lyrics like “hypnotize, criticize, but we get paper, critics lie, no surprise, they get no favors, it’s no surprise, we can rise major majority rules in the game, they cannot fade us!” Afterward, The Alchemist closes the track with lyrical jujitsu and folds his adversaries into “spar submission.”
Although minuscule, there are a few cuts that slow the pace of the album. In “Livers for Sale,” for example, Alchemist flies solo but unfortunately his verse fails to soar. Fortunately for listeners the track is brief, and while Al isn’t spewing garbage, hearing him tackle an entire track sounds awkward. “Dark Shades” featuring Evidence also scores points in the uninspired category, and while many probably would have expected a riveting verse from Evidence, he fails to live up to the expectation. Probably the most disappointing track on the album, however, is “Top Instructors.” In terms of production, it’s by far the most monotonous and most trite track on the entire album. Even Gangrene’s live wire flow couldn’t jump this dronish and boring track back to life.
Despite these blunders, Vodka & Ayahuasca is still a solid project that’ll probably end up being championed by die hard fans. After listening to the entire album, you’ll realize that the album couldn’t have been more appropriately titled considering the chemistry between Oh No and The Alchemist. The combined forces of the deadly duo will definitely have you laying in fetal position next to your speakers, and if the vibrant rumblings start sounding like a mystical shaman humming, you’re headed in the right direction. For Gangrene die hards, this is definitely an album worth adding to the collection and it will probably end up being celebrated in a majority of underground circles. However, due to the lack of promotion (they only have one official music video) and their heavy footing in the indie circuit, Gangrene surely won’t be making a dent on mainstream audiences anytime soon, and they likely wouldn’t have it any other way. Needless to say, Vodka & Ayahuasca is a joy ride that continues to get better from start to finish, especially while under the influence.