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Gangrene – Vodka & Ayahuasca (Review)

Posted on Thursday, 26th January 2012 @ 10:51 PM by Text Size A | A | A

In the words of Gangrene: “If you mix Vodka with Ayahuasca, I think you might die.” Welp. After the release of their 2010 offering Gutter Water, Oh No and The Alchemist have stayed busy by being their strange, unorthodox selves. They changed the name of their website to liversforsale.com, released a number of hilarious viral videos promoting the LP and even recorded one of the album cuts in a dump truck. The video to the title track is a chaotic police chase and one of the most unique videos of 2012 thus far. With Vodka and Ayahuasca, the psychedelic maestros look to continue their outlandish ways.

From a production standpoint, Vodka and Ayahuasca continues right where Gutter Water left off. V&A presents a darker tone than its’ predecessor, but gone are the raw gritty beats that laced numerous Mobb Deep albums in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Oh No is the little brother of Madlib (yup, that Madlib) and his influence is apparent throughout as the spacey backdrop sets a chill hazy mood for the rest of the LP. No one track is leaps and bounds above the next, which is neither good nor bad, as each song feels like a continuation of the last, creating a smooth cohesive listen.

The biggest surprise is the rhyming, as Alchemist and Oh No show steady improvements on the microphone. They’re not great rappers, but they’re not horrible ones either. As they’ve confessed numerous times, they’re not here to reinvent the wheel and they surely don’t. However, both artists sound right at home, displaying some of the best lines of their careers on V&A. ‘Due Work’ returns to that trademark Alch sound, with its eerie backdrop full of minimalistic, sinister piano riffs and Alch delivers one of his finest lyrical showcases on the album (“trapped in my environment/ psychedelic mind trip/saliva spit nothin’ but fly shit/as I recline in a Recaro with the platoon goons/get plenty money on that Plies shit”). It’s nothing mind-boggling, but it’s hard for the listener to disparage lyrics as tightly woven as this one, and these gems are sprinkled strategically throughout.

‘Odds Cracked’ is neck-breaking music, and both emcees let loose over a sample-driven triumph of a beat. The crew enlists legendary Kool G Rap for ‘Gladiator Music’ in which Alch and Oh successfully hold their own against the God MC. The track definitely has a ‘Put Em In Their Place’ feel, reminiscent of the pre-Blood Money days. One might also notice that most of the tracks on V&A lack a formidable chorus, which could affect the casual listener. But it’s perfect here, as the absence of choruses places an added importance on the rhymes, allowing both emcees to shine effectively. Hip hop veterans Roc Marciano, Prodigy and Evidence also make appearances to add an extra boost to the LP’s lyrical department.

With their third release in almost a year and a half, Alch and Oh manage to create authentic music while sticking to their grassroots sound. The true greatness lies in V&A’s production but both emcees up the ante and display their much improved flows, showing that old dogs can learn new tricks. With their chemistry, it feels like Gangrene has been together for decades. Vodka and Ayahuasca is definitely a solid album. And according to Gangrene, one that sounds even better under the influence.

Rating: 7.5/10

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