I ♥ Tuesdays Vol. 13

In attempts to bring you the freshest of the fresh each week here at The Blast Blog, occasionally a record somehow slips between the cracks.  Last Tuesday, while I lamented about the sorry state of the release schedule and instead focused my attention on recognizing the top producers of 2011, I somehow missed a project featuring one of the list’s honorable mentions, The Alchemist and Oh No’s second collaborative Gangrene project, Vodka & Ayahuasca.  You’ll have to excuse my ignorance, but with another less-than-stellar week for new releases, I’m afforded an opportunity to give you my thoughts on Al and Oh’s latest.

I’m well aware that most of you who regularly keep it locked to The Blast programming are disappointed with the current state of the rap game: A quick scan of the Facebook group and it becomes entirely evident that nostalgia and reminiscence prevail.  And while I’m sure some of the releases I discuss each week inspire little more than an eye-roll, Gangrene’s latest is sure to please Golden Era heads and new jacks alike.  I mean, is there anything more nostalgic than a verse from Kool G. Rap, who can be found laying 16 on the album opener “Gladiator Music”?  And while neither Oh No nor The Alchemist is likely to evoke memories of Rakim any time soon, the duo more than hold their own alongside certified Gs Prodigy (“Dump Truck”), Roc Marciano (“Drink It Up”), and Evidence (“Dark Shades”).

But let’s be real: No one is turning to this record for lyrical content.  Both Al and The Youngest Jackson made names for themselves behind the boards, so it’s no surprise that the production truly shines on Vodka & Ayahuasca.  Oh No takes the reins for nine of the album’s 14 joints including personal favorite “Flame Throwers,” a cut driven by a bassline funky enough to make Oh’s older brother proud.  Unfortunately, the stand-out nature of “Flame Throwers” calls to attention the LP’s central flaw: By choosing to craft the project around a central theme of psychedelia, Al and Oh unintentionally limit the potential scope of the record and things get a little repetitive.  I’m as much a fan of continuity and cohesion as any critic, but problems arise when only one cut has me reaching for the repeat button; there isn’t enough identity to distinguish a joint like “Due Work” from, say, “Top Instructors,” let alone the rest of the album.

Though Vodka & Ayahuasca is far from perfect, the Gangrene crew bring a novel approach to a time-honored rap formula. To paraphrase the words of one Phonte Coleman, sometimes we as fans get a little caught up in looking for history to repeat itself, turning a blind-eye to anything new in attempts to stay “true to the game.”  While I would never argue that we are in the midst of any sort of Golden Age, it’s nice to know that a progressive-conservative act like Gangrene still holds a comfortable position in the genre amongst the ASAPs, Yeezys, and Based Gods.  

For those of you who will be in the Taipei City area this Saturday, be sure to check out Now You’re Playing With POWER!!!, an exhibition of video game-inspired art from some of Taiwan’s most talented.  The Blast’s own LEO37 will be handling music at Revolver, while the World Haterweight Champion Themba Child will have his work featured heavily. Hope to see some of you out.  Until next Tuesday, it’s The Blast, ya’ll.


Originally published January 31, 2012 at theblast-blog.com

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