Gangrene (The Alchemist & Oh No) - Gutter Water

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Although Gutter Water doesn't quite ascend to the quality of its spiritual predecessor Champion Sound, the album is an unrelenting head banger.

Seven years ago, heavyweight Hip Hop producers Madlib and J Dilla joined forces as Jaylib, releasing the critically acclaimed Champion Sound. Featuring the two emcee/producers rhyming over each others’ beats, Champion Sound proved a sonic masterpiece grounded in a concept only a fan-boy could dream up.


Now, following from where 'Lib and Jay Dee left off, storied producer the Alchemist has teamed up with Stones Throw emcee/producer (and younger brother of Madlib) Oh No as Gangrene to release Gutter Water on Decon Records. As unlikely a duo as the video game-sampling Oxnard, California rhymer and the frequent Mobb Deep/Soul Assassins beatsmith is, the two California veterans strike an odd balance in their fusion of high-brow samples hard-knocking rhythms.

As emcees, Alchemist and Oh No do little to reinvent the wheel. Which is not to say that either is bad; on the contrary, Gutter Water is one of the most solid displays of microphone mastery for both parties. Oh No bounces over tracks with his off-kilter J Dilla-come-Redman flow, while Alc lays in the cut spitting multi-heavy bars, sounding like equal parts Prodigy and Evidence. While neither emcee is terribly expert in his craft, Oh and Alc keep the conversation blunted enough that it’s near impossible to dislike either of their performances.

 

What makes Alc and Oh a particularly convincing duo is their individual lyrical flairs. While Madlib and Jay Dee functioned on a similar lyrical plane as Jaylib, Alc and Oh maintain a stylistic equilibrium reminiscent of EPMD’s Erick and Parrish. Alchemist excels in his punch line delivery, spitting oddly hilarious barbs like “I stay high like the pussy of a giraffe is,” while Oh barks thugged-out threats with a stonewall authority. Songs like the raucous “Take Drugs,” “All Bad” and head nod-inducing “Boss Shit” find the duo lyrically dropkicking foes with unmatched expertise.

While Gutter Water is an artful exercise in braggadocio, the scarcity of conceptual cuts does prove somewhat of a letdown, with songs like “Ransom” ultimately belaboring the album’s point. When the project does venture outside the battle-rap realm, however, Oh and Alc show signs of pure lyrical brilliance. Alc ingeniously captures the stoner mentality on “Not High Enough,” while Oh is at his best on “Standing in the Shadows,” spinning a cinematically vivid tale of familial abuse and murder literally from the perspective of the fly on a wall with “A thousand eyes, watching all sides finna fall.”

The Alchemist and Oh No aren’t the only ones drinking the Gutter Water, though. A variety of underground vets join the duo on seven of the album’s fifteen tracks, including Roc C (“From Another Orbit”), Big Twins (“Not Leaving”) and the criminally underrated MED (“Breathing Down Yo Neck”). Chief among these collaborations is the album’s title track with the indelible Raekwon, on which the Chef and company spit “…bars of uranium” over Alc and DJ Muro’s thundering horns and sweeping strings. In addition, Guilty Simpson cold clock’s Alc’s sinister synths on “Brass Knuckle Rap,” while Alc and his “The Far Left” partners Evidence and Fashawn wreak havoc on Oh No’s frantic banger “Wassup Wassup.” The only misstep among these collaborations is “Get Into Some Gangster Shit,” which ultimately proves underwhelming despite solid verses from Oh and guest rhymer Planet Asia.

When it comes down to it, however, Gutter Water’s main appeal is the fantastic, speaker-blasting production. Yet where 'Lib and Dilla prided themselves on subtlety and simplicity, the Alchemist and Oh No strike an unnerving balance between Alc’s polished street bangers and Oh’s esoteric sampling, crafting. Throughout the album’s fifteen tracks, Al and Oh’s chemistry is so fluid that they keep the listener guessing as to who produced which track. Oh seemingly channels his inner Alchemist on tracks like “Take Drugs” and “All Bad,” making the latter of the two cuts sound like Alc’s 2004 Game/Prodigy banger “Dead Bodies” on PCP. Similarly, Alc deviates from his usual crisp production and delves into dirty and obscure sampling on the Middle Eastern-tinged single “Chain Swinging” and the stuttering “From Another Orbit.” Of course, certain tracks like Alc’s “Not High Enough” and Oh’s grandiose “Boss Shit” speak heavily to their trademark styles, but despite this, the two producers craft a sonic consistency on Gutter Water that few producers can achieve if they were to produce an entire LP on the dolo.

Although Gutter Water doesn’t quite ascend to the quality of its spiritual predecessor Champion Sound, the album is an unrelenting head banger that cleverly blends the best elements of California’s underground Hip Hop scene. Lyrical setbacks aside, Gangrene’s debut is an infectious combo of Alc’s Kevlar-tough street anthems and Oh’s musically off-kilter production.

51 Comments

  • Brian Brollyalcolmx Wallace

    u mufuckas is crazy...i been a alchemist fan since day one and every cd he puts out is lik a movie.....im a keep it real, i done looked at this album on websites and aint never listen to it cuz i dont really lik dem gang greene niggaz lik dat but i was bored today and finally downloaded it jus cuz i wanna hear some new alc shit and i gots to say, i fucks wit this album. its crazy............ straight fire from start to finish.......was listenin to it on my way to work today and the shit had me in a zone for real....one thing bout alc that i lik is his lil skits and endings he be havin on the end of songs....i love how they put this shit together wit the dialog on the end of the songs to lead in to the next one............tomorrow i will be goin to best buy and buying the real cd

  • Sonsee

    hot album. Def what I been waitin for. All that don't like it. Go listen to lil Wayne

  • mufucka

    Some of you rating this 1 star? GTFOH This gets a solid 4/5 in my book.

  • risen357

    Sean Ryon. get a better sound system. smoke a blunt. then write your "review"

  • Riddims

    4.5 We all know Oh No and Al aren't the best rappers. That's not to say they don't bring it on this album. Best lyrical output I've heard from both of them yet. Lots of creativity here. Really interesting beats and great features. This is a must buy. Also check out the 'Sawblade' EP they put out. 4 more tracks + instrumentals. No features. More dopeness. I'm surprised "Freshest Rhymes" didn't make the album. All the tracks are really album-worthy. This sounds like a promo for the album. Fuck it I can't just sit here and read these bullshit reviews. DX is sleepin'

  • O

    I give this a 4.5 because it wasent perfect, it might however have been the best thing they could have put out. So I'll give it a 5. Either way its an album of the year contender, and this is Eminems DJ! LOL

  • DMV Dave

    Ya'll DX faggots did tha same review shit to Champ Sound - now it's a fucking classic! Ya'll peeps who know what Oh Knuckles & Dutch Schultz do just cop this shit wit sum cash & move on. Fuck a cock-blowing critic any fucking way!!! P.S. - That 'Ransom' joint is so fucking tough dun - makes me wanna squeeze a fat azz, punch a midget & kick a spoiled kid in tha chest!!!

  • Doubl Negative

    Forget rap LP sequels, this year is goin' to be remembered for returnin' to hip-hop basics of having one emcee/producer. Gangrene's dope and joins the illustrious company of ILL BILL/Muggs, KRS/Tru-Masta, John Robinson/Lewis Parker, Rah Digga/Nottz and Celph-Titled/Buckwyld. What all of these albums have in common, is a true love of the art form and real fans. Too many rappers these days are avaricious and vain, but Oh-Knuckles and ALC eschew currents trend, and have made their best work in along time. If you download this LP from iTunes, you three music videos as well

  • Anonymous

    this album is for smokers and the reviewer is a straight edge pussy. cop this album. bangin beats live wire raps. perfect album to spin with a blunt burnin out. dx should stop reviewing albums altogether, ya'll curb sales with this kinda bullshit. if i was alc or oh no, i wouldn't want to do an interview/feature with y'all, you got some doofus reviewing their album that cant even break down what he does/doesn't like about it. if he was a fan of alc and oh no, he'd have given this at least a 4. fuck y'all.

  • Fossie

    Anonymous is a fuckin retard don`t know what the fuck he is talkin about....

  • Mike

    Yo, I'm a big fan of Alchemist and Madlib, so naturally I like Oh No too. But man, I waited months for this album and it was definitely a let down :( It seemed uninspired, like they both should have took a little longer making this album. I still support these nigz though!

  • SteevoSteez

    this is the fist review I've ever commented on..DX is known for bogus reviews but im sorry this is def. not a 3 star album..4 is more fitting if your trying to compare it to Champion Sound..but yoo the beats are super hot..and these niggas hold it down on the lryics tip..wayy better than all of the shit on the radio and in main stream..and to you anonymous muhfcuka..i think its the same person..

  • Anonymous

    the album cover is better than the album looooool

  • Anonymous

    should been a mixtape but still sounds like nothing special at all fuck man i wating for this album like a month but it sucks

  • Anonymous

    Disappointing album damn it :(

  • Whiterthanmost

    Shit. At least diamond d made me chuckle. Disappointing.

  • Anonymous

    this shold been a crazy album but its not:(

  • claaa7

    you don't listen to an Alchemist/Oh No LP for the lyrics, just as you don't listen to a Jaylib LP for the lyrics. "Gutter Water" is all about the dirty production and the gutter atmosphere and neither of the producers make the banging production any lesser. this is easily a 4 - and reading this review you sure as hell make it sound like you're giving it 4 stars (which you should). but hey, opinions are like assholes...

  • H2O_atlanta

    I'm all about the beats and scratches on this one. The rhyme content just wasn't there for me. Lots of okay metaphors and punchlines that could have been replaced with substance IMO. I gave em a 4 for the beats, scratches and album arrangement.

  • Damien Juen

    This LP slowly grows up on me...if U don't like it do what they say: take drugs!!!!!! Banger

  • stro

    Been an ALC fan since day 1, but this is album awful. No idea why the reviewer decided to compare it to Jaylib. I know Oh No is Madlib's younger brother but neither of these guys could hold a candle to Madlib or Dilla on the production or lyrical tip. & yea DX is wack for giving the Nicki Minaj album such a high rating, but that doesn't make this album good. Str8 up all you guys who think it's dope right now will play this trash 5 years from now & wonder what the fuck you were thinking. Guaranteed 1/5

  • BAM93

    3.5 would be a good rating. Nothing spectacular about this album.

  • Carles

    Those who find this is not a good album, go and listen to Nicky Menage, faggots

  • Dub_Es

    3.5. personally, i'm an a-l-c stan, and oh no has always been dope in my book, so i fucked with it. it could have been a lot better though i was just impressed by the fact that alchemist wasn't too terrible as a rapper on it. he's pretty fuckin bad in the past

  • Anonymous

    weak weak album il give it a 1 star even

  • Anonymous

    i give 2 stars thats it

  • Anonymous

    Huge letdown the album cover is better than the album i thought this album is going to be amazing but sadly it was not the best song is not high enough i agree with that 2or3 songs were ok the Alchemist should made more crasy beats like not high enough

  • Anonymous

    not a realy good album i was hoping for alot of carzy beats but only 3 beats were ok not high enough is the best song in the album thats it

  • Mr Flamboyant

    "Get Into Some Gangsta Shit" underwhelming? Yeah, ok. This is a 4 star album. The inconsistencies with some of the reviews is malice. Needs to get back to J-23 reviewing all or the majority of the albums like before. Step it up, man.

  • Owen

    You gave this 3 stars and nicky minaj 3 and a half your a fuckin joke DX. On a real man

    • Anonymous

      dx got it man they gave it 3 i would give a 2 just for the porduction realy weak album damn it why?????? this shold been crazy but its not:(

  • Charles ExSavior

    3 stars?! The Jaylib project is 5 stars worthy, and this project is the CLOSEST sound to that formula. I give it a very solid 4 stars because the production is very well done... each producer compliments one another throughout the listen. Rhymes are cool.

  • Vocab

    I entered the contest to win it...hook a brotha up DX! I wanna bang this shit

  • 718rob

    Huge letdown. Expected more on the rhymes and beats from both.

  • tr~gangodz

    wtf? 3 stars? but it's freakin brilliant album 5 of 5

  • green

    Dopest album of the year