November 18, 2010

Aaron Frank rolls up spliffs longer than hockey sticks. 

Rappers bragging about their weed habits is nothing new–especially in a year like 2010, with Curren$y, Wiz Khalifa, and Rick Ross hogging the sativa spotlight. But in 2008, when the Gangrene collaboration between Alchemist and Oh No was first announced, Jim Jones and Lil Wayne prominently touted their love of “poppin bottles,” along with harder substances like ecstacy and codeine. Granted, there’s probably a correlation between the California medical marijuana boom, the tepid economy, and the state of weed rap, but it’s safe to say that prior to 2008, most weed references came from less commercially concerned rappers (Wu-Tang, Doom, Devin, and Reggie Noble).   

But Kush and Orange Juice is no Muddy Waters, and I suspect I’m not the only one thirsting for more old school soul samples and comic shit-talking from their weed rap. Thankfully, Gangrene’s Gutter Water has plenty of both, along with several unsettling interludes containing violent crime stories from local news reports. The tone is similar to Guilty Simpson’s Ode To The Ghetto, who fittingly appears on the robbery-inspired “Brass Knuckle Rap.” Both records are laced with weed references and jittery paranoia, familiar territory for Alchemist, who produced Prodigy’s Return of the Mac.

As expected, the problems turn up less in the production department as with the lyrics. When most of the songs revolve around weed smoking and violent crime, you leave yourself little room to breathe lyrically. Thankfully, they called in favors and acquired guest appearances from Raekwon, Planet Asia, and Big Twin to help lyrically balance the title track, “Get In To Some Gangster Shit” and “Not Leaving,”two of the album’s best songs.

But even guest appearances from Fashawn and Evidence can’t save “Wassup Wassup,” a directionless track that sounds more inspired by Four Loko than Mary Jane. That’s not to say that the two can’t stand on their own lyrically though, as exhibited on “Boss Moves” and “Take Drugs,” one of the better songs from Gutter Water, which at the very least has a clear, open-minded message. In fact, both artists’ lyrical shortcomings fade away, and we finally find Alchemist rhyming confidently in his own voice. The two even stand their ground alongside MED on the standout “Breathing Down Your Neck.”

Where the lyrics fail to deliver, the production and instrumental interludes more than make up for it, making it just as an enjoyable ride as Madlib and Strongarm Steady’s Stoney Jackson collaboration. The obvious difference between the two is that Stoney Jackson attempted to touch on different moods and experiences, whereas Gangrene cultivate their uniquely dark and muddled strains of kush. No orange juice needed as a chaser.

Download:
MP3: Gangrene (Alchemist & Oh No)-“Chain Swinging” (Left-Click)
MP3: Gangrene-“Take Drugs”

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