Gangrene is the collaboration between rappers/producers The Alchemist and Oh No. After meeting at a show headlined by their mutual aquaintance Evidence, of Dilated Peoples, the two hit it off and began a musical correspondence—one would send the other a beat and a verse, and the other would respond in kind. Out of this murky meeting of minds, Gangrene was born. The duo has since released a number of records through Decon Records. Gangrene first released their Sawblade EP in 2010 and followed it with their first full-length album Gutter Water. 2011’s collaboration Greneberg with Roc Marciano, also of Decon Records, was named one of the year’s best rap albums by SPIN magazine. In 2012 they released a second full-length Vodka & Ayahuasca, as well as another EP entitled Odditorium.
There was a time when California was the epicenter of hip-hop. Unfortunately, that time was nearly 20 years ago. While the halcyon days of Death Row Records have long since passed, and the Golden State is no longer ruling the airwaves, those prognosticating the demise of Cali hip hop are off base, as there are a number of artists putting it down for the West Coast. Two of those artists, Oxnard critical darling Oh No—real name, Michael Jackson—and extraordinary Beverly Hills producer The Alchemist decided to join forces in 2006 and have since released a number of devastating, thought-provoking releases.
The group first broke into the hip hop lexicon with their acclaimed debut LP, Gutter Water. While both artists are known more for their production, they also decided to split up rapping duties. Production-wise, it was always going to be a first class combo, and both artists lace some incredibly lush, string-heavy beats, generally preferring to let them soar instead of knock. Lyrically, they also bring their A-games, as both artists spit verbose, dexterous flows and interchange effortlessly. A track like "Get Into Some Gangster Shit" is a good representation of what Gangrene is all about: a funky, graceful baseline, an ethereal string melody, a solid back beat, and laid-back, yet relentless, flow. In a hip hop world that is increasingly hook-focused, Gangrene isn't afraid to let their verses do the heavy lifting, prioritizing devastating verses over sung choruses.
The group took another step further with their Sophomore LP, the relentless Vodka & Ayahuasca. From the ginormous opener, "Gladiator Music" to the psychedelic-influenced closer, "Livers for Sale," the group shows their progressive taste and inspired lyricism. As they are both seasoned producers, they know exactly how to best frame their hard-edged flows, and they do an incredible job of crafting dark tracks that don't sound overly heavy. A track like "Drink Up" comes off both edgy and light at the same time, which is no mean feat.
Though both artists understandably have their fingers in a lot of pies, Gangrene show no signs of slowing down and seem dedicated to pressing this partnership. While they may not bring back the radio glory of mid-90's Cali hip hop, the duo will keep flying the West Coast flag proudly. And that can only be a good thing.