The gutter and grime of Gangrene’s first collaborative effort on Gutter Water prompted the duo of producer/emcees Alchemist and Oh No to hit the studio again and give fans another reverse cleansing.
“It’s like a shower that pours out dirt,” Alchemist said, “That’s what this is like. If you could imagine the sound of a shower that makes you dirtier, this is that.”
Alchemist also expanded on his different endeavors individually including producing for Q-U’s up-and-comer Action Bronson and says that Mobb Deep fans will be happy with their upcoming LP. With the Mobb’s album set to drop in a few months, Alc says, “They’re supposed to be doing what they’re supposed to do.”
HipHopDX recently sat down with the smoked-out duo to talk about Vodka & Ayahuasca, their creative marketing of the project, and their opinion of Harlem newcomer ASAP Rocky.
Photograph by Jason Goldwatch
HipHopDX: What made you two come back for a second Gangrene project?
Alchemist: We just have a plethora of music, we work at light speed so coming back to the present time, it wasn’t enough I don’t think. You think that was enough, [Oh No]?
Oh No: They needed a second helping. We just give the hungry people what they want.
Alchemist: There’s a lot of famine out there and we want people to be fed well and it’s real good for you.
DX: What should fans be expecting to hear out of Vodka & Ayahuasca?
Oh No: It’s definitely going to cleanse, cleanse people of their daily drama.
Alchemist: It’s like a cleansing like after you go to the beach, you gotta take a shower to wash all that shit off you like the sand and all the foulness, but this is the opposite cause we’re pouring more shit on you to clean you off. It’s like a shower that pours out dirt. [Laughs] That’s what this is like. If you could imagine the sound of a shower that makes you dirtier, this is that.
DX: So it’s a reverse cleansing then?
Alchemist: Yeah it’s a reverse cleanse! Exactly.
DX: You’ve got some of the usual suspects on this one, Evidence, Prodigy, Kool G Rap. Why did you decide to roll with them and bring in a few different features and is this going to sound similar to Gutter Water?
Alchemist: I mean we have a lot of songs. We’ve got a song with Boz Scaggs, we’ve got a lot of different people on records so we just wanted to reach out of the spectrum of the regular and of course we have our regular friends too. We are always trying something different, it’s Gangrene, you know?
DX: Ah huh?
Alchemist: You really know?
DX: [Laughs] Nah I’m asking you.
Alchemist: I just made that shit up though, so if you knew what I really mean that’s crazy though. You’re crazier than I am.
Alchemist: That’s tight. What’s your name?
Alchemist: Paul, I fuck with Paul man. Paul do you want to get down with the Gangrene army?
DX: Yeah sure I’ll be on a track. [Laughs]
Alchemist: Alright you’re in. Paul’s in with the Gangrene army fuck that. We need more soldiers.
DX: Yeah get me in.
Oh No: Yeah you in.
Alchemist: Paul’s in the Gangrene army now. That was easy right? We’re going to need you to kill some people soon. [Laughs]
DX: Cool just call me when you need a hit. [Laughs] Speaking of Ayahuasca that’s some pretty wild shit…
Alchemist: You know about that?
DX: Nah I’ve never tried it but I’ve heard it’s pretty crazy.
Alchemist: Are you in college?
Alchemist: Alright so not you but you know anybody at college who’ve done Ayahuasca or any of that shit?
DX: Nah, I mean I go to Ohio U and we know how to get down but man Ayahuasca, that’s pretty out there. Isn’t that from the rainforests or something in South America?
Alchemist: Yeah it’s pretty interesting. Something worth looking up, definitely worth checking out.
DX: Yeah why did you guys put that in the title of your album, are you mixing it with Vodka?
Alchemist: Well I think basically Vodka is your modern day party livener. I think we dug deeper. Me and Oh went on a couple excursions. We were out in the rainforest for a while buggin’ out and we kind of encountered different medical, herbal elixirs. Not your average thing but everyone talking, “Hey we got the loud, we got loud.” But do you have a cup of Ayahuasca? Not a lot of rappers can say that. You know what I’m saying, they’re not really posted up with Ayahuasca in the party so we’re bringing a new element but I think Vodka represents now. So we mixing the now with the Ayahuasca and it’s psychedelic.
DX: You also had the promo videos with the different people talking shit and the one with the guy who wasted and buying a copy of the CD. Not your normal promo vid, what was up with that?
Oh No: Those are new recruits.
Alchemist: That’s the army, man!
Oh No: That’s the army giving you visual drops.
DX: Yeah why did you go with those over a more traditional video?
Alchemist: We didn’t find those, those found us, it’s crazy. We didn’t have to do much like this stuff just comes to us and it’s kind of dope. I don’t know about you but a regular video is like looking at paint drying. I think for our next video, we’re just going to watch paint dry for four minutes. We’ll just be sitting there with an ill beat and just watch paint dry. That might be iller than a lot of shit that’s out.
DX: That’d actually be different than a normal video.
Alchemist: Don’t nobody take our ideas! Is the world going to read this? Hey yo world, check it, don’t take any of our shit man word up. Oh No is crazy too, he’s crazy.
Oh No: Yeah man, I don’t play.
Alchemist: Yeah he’s the enforcer. That’s what I be trying to tell, Oh’s not having it man. I dare you. [Laughs] I’m good though ’cause I’m a little guy that can talk shit, gotta big mouth and I’ve got my homie to back me up.
DX: Alc you specifically, you’re part of so many groups not just Gangrene but Stepbrothers with Ev and I swear you’re the third unofficial member of Mobb Deep ’cause if it’s not Hav behind the boards, it’s you. What has your relationship been like with them because I think a lot of their fans think they have changed from maybe Prodigy pre-incarceration? What have you been doing with them and what has the Mobb mentality been like recently?
Alchemist: See I think that’s a matter of opinion. See, I’m around, Oh No is family, Evidence is family, Mobb Deep is family so as far as me being with them. I know it seems like that though cause we’re all family. Mobb is in the studio doing what they’re supposed to be doing what they’re supposed to do. I forget sometimes ’cause I’m in the lab and I’m able to hear all the shit that you haven’t heard yet you know what I mean? So it’s like I know where they’re at and the world only knows whatever they drop.
DX: So from what you’ve heard, what they’ve cooked up recently is not too different from like HNIC 2 or something that they might have done pre-P being in jail?
Alchemist: Yeah they’re on their grind, man, you guys are going to be happy. Mobb Deep is family and if you really want to see where [Prodigy is] at you can check out “Dump Truck,” which is available now on Vodka and Ayahuasca and in stores on January 24th. Wooooo! [Laughs]
DX: That sounds like a regular promo video coming out there.
Alchemist: “Dump Truck” is on the album. “Dump Truck” is featuring P. You know cause P is family, P and Oh No. Oh laced P with a couple retarded beats. This is like exclusive right here. I’m giving up exclusive info right here. Oh No got some crazy shit for me and P so ya’ll can stay tuned for that too. I need you to write in parentheses “Wooooooo.”
DX: [Laughs] How do you spell that?
Alchemist: Double-U with mad O’s. [Laughs] Woooooo, and an exclamation of course.
DX: A couple exclamations definitely.
Alchemist: Yeah and what are those little logos you can put on Twitter, like those little fist logos? Oh what are they called? Like you can put up little shapes from an application on your iPhone, emoge? No it’s immoge!
Oh No: Yeah, better put some immoge swag in that shit.
Alchemist: You know what? This whole interview should be printed in immoge, that’d be hot.
DX: How would you translate that?
Alchemist: Give it a shot, man, give it a shot.
DX: Everyone is going to be logging onto DX and wondering, “What the fuck is this?”
Alchemist: You’re in the Gangrene Army now, we’re going to need you to do some things, man.
DX: [Laughs] I’ll see what I can do.
Alchemist: Yeah, give it a shot.
DX: How did you and Oh come together originally to form Gangrene?
Alchemist: Man, without thought. Sometimes things man, you just gotta move. You know Ouija boards, move with it and that was natural. I was just a fan of his music, we linked and it developed. Oh I consider like a smart partner like as far as music, when he sends me shit, it’s like from day one, from the first thing he’s sent me to now it’s always, “Oh shit, okay, let me throw something back.” Plus the West Coast connect and everything, you know, the guy’s genuine you know? We’re able to make some crack and we’ll continue to make it. This is fun, I’m enjoying this. Are you enjoying this?
Oh No: Yeah.
Alchemist: Yeah this is fun, we should do this more often.
DX: You mention the Vodka aspect being like the modern-day Alchemist and Oh No. Are you guys looking to expand from what you’ve typically done in terms of music or are you gonna keep doing something similar to what you’ve been doing, something that has worked for a long time?
Alchemist: I mean everything is always going to be new. I think with this album, being that we both make beats primarily, I mean we were making a lot of joints, just working and working and then came the Vodka & Ayahuasca joint and then we were like, “Oh shit, this is the sound.” We was on some psychedelic wild shit. I think we both felt like, “Okay, we need to shake the album up like this.” It’s kind of hard to stick to something but I think it became a vibe to the album. We had a lot of new joints and they didn’t really fit the vibe of the album, they’ll probably come out but, you know what I mean? ‘Cause Oh started laying down the framework; we started making other joints, like throwing Roc Marciano on the album and the “Drink Up” joint and a couple others. It wasn’t like Rock-psychedelic but if you look at the album cover, I think that helped me shape up the sound.
DX: You also have Kool G Rap on this one and I know you’ve done work previously for his album and you know bringing in, like you said, Roc Marciano, you’re starting to bring in these legends of Hip hop. What was the reasoning and background of bringing these guys in for this Gangrene album?
Alchemist:Kool G Rap to me, is like the best of all time arguably. Incredible, I mean what do you even have to say about that and it’s an honor working with him. I don’t look at it as bringing him back in. I feel like it’s working with who I think are the best at the moment there’s no time on it, it doesn’t matter. He’s one of those people over the years that still make you go, “Are you kidding me?” Go put on “Whar” [by] RZA featuring Kool G Rap [from the Afro Samurai soundtrack] and just play that verse man, that’s like a workshop right there man on how to rhyme. Working with Roc Marcy, we’re working with people that we feel.
DX: I know you each are working with so many different artists but is there anything coming from each of you solo-wise?
Oh No: Yeah I’m working on some projects not too much solo-wise but just producing for people.
Alchemist: He’s being humble, he’s being humble right now, he’s not telling you about the 17 projects he’s about to hit you with.
DX: We want to hear about all of them.
Alchemist: Well let me tell you a little about it then. Fall back Oh. Oh got the Dolo Mic album coming, when is that droppin’, Oh?
Oh No: Oh yeah true dat, true dat. You’re right.
Alchemist: [Laughs] This shit is retarded so I gotta speak on it.
Oh No: Yeah, we got the Dolo Mic project coming March the 27th, it’s coming out, we got it.
Alchemist: Don’t say “we;” I wish I was a part of it. [Laughs] This is all Oh’s creation. This shit is retarded. Who’s on the joint?
Oh No: All kinds of people are on it.
Alchemist: Yeah my album, I got a couple instrumental albums coming, I got a couple things in line. I don’t know if I want to spill that, I can’t spill the beanbag yet…well you are a part of the Gangrene Army… [Laughs] Nah, I got a couple things coming out at the end of February, March. I’ll be releasing The Antidote [with Fashawn] with about five new songs, do a little bonus or special edition packaging. I’ve got Rapper’s Best Friend that’s all instrumentals coming out and I’m in the lab now with my man Action Bronson and I’m working on the project with the homie now, finished with the album, not sure when it’ll come out but it’ll be out this year.
DX: Speaking on Action, I feel he’s a guy who actually sounds like he’s from New York in his music and less like maybe an ASAP Rocky, who I’m a fan of but kinda has that tilla sound. What’s it like working with one of the up-and-comers from New York?
Alchemist: I fuck with ASAP [Rocky]. I’ll tell you my theory on him. I’m from an era when Dilated [Peoples] was coming out and when we – I’m not a part of them, but when I was producing for them, we grew up listening to a lot of East Coast rap, living in L.A. – at a time when really that gangster sound was coming out of L.A. So when we started making records, it kind of sounded like, we got some flack I guess, not flack but some people in L.A. didn’t know how to take to it because it wasn’t traditionally sounding like L.A. music. But in time, as Dilated solidified itself and other groups did as well, now that sound is reminiscent of some L.A. shit. You know what I mean? So I think you just gotta give it some time, cause this is what they were raised off of you know what I mean? This is what they we’re inspired by. To me it’s New York. I grew up in L.A. but living in New York, that’s that Harlem shit.
DX: Yeah I love ASAP but as of now he kind of has a different sound but speaking on Action, what has it been like working with him?
Alchemist: Love it. And just before that, he’s a great person, that’s just my man, straight up. Just a good person overall and then when it comes down to the music, he’s just smothering shit. Just from working with all these Queens artists over the years, he’s got that Queens shit so I think it was easy for me to find a lane for where that music is coming out so I’m excited about that project for when it’s coming out. We’ve got a lot of things lined up so there’s going to be a lot. I’ve also got the Dew Rag Dynasty [Clique] project and that’s going to be coming out of left field man. D.R.D.C. and that whole album I produced and we’re going to put it out this year soon.