Imagine shuttling inside a fashionably decorated time warp, and you get some idea of what hip-hop sounded like in 2011. While Action Bronson and Roc Marciano were antiquating themselves with chicly retrograde boom-bap, Alchemist made a record distinctly about the future, tapping longtime creative muse Oh No for Vodka & Ayahuaska.
One caveat: the future sketched out on Vodka & Ayahuaska — made under the group's collaborative moniker, Gangrene — is a torrid, disembodying nightmare, culminating in a post-apocalyptic bloodbath. Crack open your fruit and spill out the prune juice/Drink to success while we calculate your debts, Oh No hisses on "Dump Truck," which churns violently from Seventies acid-rock arpeggios to low boiling, Madvillainy-style upsweep. The song is not unlike watching Wolfen during a particularly visual DXM trip.
As a rapper, Oh No closely resembles the MF Grimm of The Downfall of Ibliys: A Ghetto Opera; no phrase is left unturned without a curt little detail like this one from "Drink Up": Big dog like Mama Duke/Suckers do what they can, I do what I wanna do. (I'm a magician with a midget assistant is another keeper.) The guests, too, are in fine, fiery form. Mobb Deep's chief mouthpiece, Prodigy, breathes lava like nothing had changed since The Infamous.
But the real find is Alchemist. Like his brother in arms Just Blaze, the producer-turned-sometime-emcee is now known for his unbecomingly erratic material. Yet he sounds liberated on Vodka & Ayahuaska, as if the South American herb referenced in the album's title reawakened him to stirring new possibilities. (Decon)