If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and go watch some of the absolutely hilarious promo videos for Gangrene's upcoming album, Vodka and Ayahuasca. Shot by acclaimed director Jason Goldwatch, the videos feature everything from a fat kid promising a beatdown if you dare cross him, a little girl playing with an AR-15, and a loser in his mom's basement making idle threats. Clearly, Gangrene is an army.
Oh and, the music is pretty good too.
In case you aren't already aware, the group itself consists of two producer/rappers, The Alchemist and Oh No. The duo's last LP, Gutter Water, dropped in 2010 and now they're back for more. Their new album has a psychedelic feel, is entirely co-produced by ALC and Oh No, and drops on January 25th.
We got on the horn with the duo to talk about Vodka and Ayahuasca but our conversation was about as off the wall and laugh out loud funny as their promo videos have been. Still, we got them to act seriously for long enough to explain to us how the album came together, what individual projects they both have coming up this year (including ones with Action Bronson, Blackstar, and ScHoolboy Q), and how they discovered an ancient drug called Ayahuasca,..
Interview by Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)
What’s up Al?
The Alchemist: Chilling, what’s the word?
I’m good. Glad to have you both on the phone.
The Alchemist: You got Oh here? Oh, you must be on your 75th blunt already.
Oh No: Rolling a blunt just for this one right now.
Cool. We wanted to talk to you guys about your new album—
The Alchemist:—do you rhyme?
Do I what?
The Alchemist: Do you rap?
No, not anymore. [Laughs.]
Human interaction is not necessary on this level of com-mu-ni-ca-tion-alism. I’m not gonna lie, I followed Oh’s lead on this project. I suck on this one. If you like it, it’s all his fault. - The Alchemist
The Alchemist: You got a good voice, son. You should give it a shot! I thought you was rhyming just now. You got cadence in your delivery. You got nice cadence, man.
Well, okay thanks. [Laughs.]
The Alchemist: No doubt, my bad, I didn’t mean to cut you off. What were you saying?
Well, I was going to ask, how did the initial discussion for this album start?
The Alchemist: I don’t think it was any conversation, ever. This might be the first time I had a full conversation with Oh ever.
The Alchemist: Yeah, we teleport man.
Uh, okay. So at what point did you guys start making songs?
The Alchemist: I’m still trying to figure that out. I don’t know if it’s the weed or the amount of beats that Oh No sends me—it makes me dizzy. I still can’t figure it out.
But I know that he’s like a pitcher and I’m like the batter. I could never put that into a rhyme without it being a real wack analogy. It’s like a top-notch pitcher—the ball’s gonna throw straight over the plate and shazam. Shiggity-shop-bop. Boom-shiggity-boom.
[Laughs.] How do you feel about that description, Oh?
Oh No: That feels great.
The Alchemist: I love this guy.
You mentioned him sending you a lot of beats—were you guys getting in the studio together or was it over email?
The Alchemist: This album it was both. If he wanted to fly the spaceship to this side or not, but the teleport thing is always good for me. So, human interaction is not necessary on this level of com-mu-ni-ca-tion-alism. Can you spell that slowly so people get that effect?
The Alchemist: Alright, spell it real slow so people get that drawl. But we were definitely in the lab for most of it. I’m not gonna lie, I followed Oh’s lead on this project. I suck on this one. If you like it, it’s all his fault
What’s it like producing songs together?
The Alchemist: It’s like riding an ill bike, fam. It’s like lacing up the right boot with the right lace and the bowtie’s tied laced up with the string attached, ya heard? Print all that shit right there, that’s gonna look ill when you print it. Trust me. Put that shit in italics right there. Put that shit in a different font. Yo, get my font right. That’s some shit [Raekwon] would say, “Get my font right in the interview man. I want my fonts correct in this interview fam.” [Laughs.] That basically answered that.
Well let me ask Oh this. The record has a psychedelic sound. Where is that inspired from?
The album is inspired from chewing South American leaves. Slow boil, you start to inhale the fumes so I start to go up there. That’s where it all comes from. —Oh No
Oh No: It’s inspired from chewing South American leaves.
The Alchemist: Mmmmm.
Oh No: Mmmm, real slow.
The Alchemist: Mmmm.
Oh No: Slow boil, you start to inhale the fumes so I start to go up there. That’s where it all comes from.
The Alchemist: Mmmm.
Were you boiling up the leaves in the studio?
Oh No: No, I was breaking them shits up.
The Alchemist:[Laughs.] If you mix vodka with Ayahuasca, I think you can die. I guess that’s a good metaphor for the music. [Laughs.] If you listen to us, you might die! [Laughs.]
Oh No: It’s very dangerous.
The Alchemist: It’s really dangerous. Oh really set it off with the psychedelic [sounds]. We both make beats, but I think at this point—especially after you do one album—it’s more challenging to attack a certain sound.
He set it off with certain things he was flipping. And it was like oh, look at the album cover, listen to the album, you drink some herbal elixirs and it all goes down right. Does that make sense? Does it sound good?
It sounds good to me.
The Alchemist:I’m gonna flip that into a lyric, “Herbal elixir.” That’s too lyrical right? “Herbal elixir/I turn the knobs on the mixer/And drink a verbal elixir.” Yo write that down. I’m on a roll today.
If you mix vodka with Ayahuasca, I think you can die. I guess that’s a good metaphor for the music. [Laughs.] If you listen to us, you might die!
That’s funny because I remember on Chemical Warfare you had that skit with the two street dudes arguing with two backpackers…
The Alchemist: Yeah. That’s where I get that inspiration from. You better kick them lyrical formats like a miracle doormat. [Laughs.] Write that one down too man!
The Alchemist: Email those back to me because I’m gonna need to add those into my next masterpiece.
Alright, but seriously I wanna ask about the title. I don’t usually ask people about titles, but this one is interesting. Can you please explain what is Ayahuasca?
The Alchemist: We’re bringing it back. This is like drug entertainment rap. It enlightens you. Some people are gonna end up looking it up and they’re gonna learn about Ayahuasca. I dunno if I should spoil it. Maybe I should let them go on their own journey. That’s what I had to do. What do you think Oh?
Oh No: Everybody has to go on their own self-journey.
The Alchemist: Yeah if we try to explain it, it might mess up their journey. We don’t wanna mess your journey up.
What was this journey that you went on to discover Ayahuasca?
The Alchemist: It’s an in-depth journey that cant be journalized so we’re probably unjournaficated. But it has to do with Brazil. We were out in Brazil on a journified quest. And that’s about all the information that we can forgo.
So you guys went to Brazil together?
The Alchemist: Yes we were in Brazil.
And you guys were just chilling out in Brazil or were you doing a show? Or what was it?
Ayahuasca is from thousands of years ago—it’s something ancient. Vodka is now. So were mixing them up in a bowl and pouring it on your laptop and making your shit electrocuting. This album is gonna ruin your laptop. That’s a horrible sales pitch. [Laughs.] Nobody’s gonna buy our shit now, but who cares? —The Alchemist
The Alchemist: It’s hard to define but Ayahuasca was discovered. And the vodka combination—which could kill you—was discovered and then we came back with the concept and just ran all the way out of the stadium with it.
So were you guys using Ayahuasca?
The Alchemist: Do you, uh, work for Complex or the federal enforcement agency? Can we confirm that first?
The Alchemist:[Laughs.] These are some serious allegations, man. I’m saying that. It’s something mysterious and I feel like people can discover it on their own. But I think that Ayahuasca is from thousands of years ago—it’s something ancient. Vodka is now. So were mixing them up in a bowl and pouring it on your laptop and making your shit electrocuting. That’s what we’re doing—ruining your laptop. This album is gonna ruin your laptop.
The Alchemist: That’s not a good sales pitch. That’s a horrible sales pitch. [Laughs.] Nobody’s gonna buy our shit now, but who cares? It’s good stuff. It’s gonna ruin your laptop.
[Laughs.] Okay. Anyhow, one thing I I really like about the project are the promo videos. They’re really funny.
Oh No: Jason Goldwatch is the fucking best, straight up.
How did that come about?
The Alchemist: It found us and it all came together. I’m not a fan of basic, Oh isn’teither. That’s why we do Gangrene in the fashion that we do. But, its like, are there any rules on how to promote your album? Is there any rules on how to do a video?
I’m not a fan of basic, Oh isn’t either. That’s why we do Gangrene in the fashion that we do. But, its like, are there any rules on how to promote your album? Is there any rules on how to do a video? It’s not like we're getting played on TV so, we basically recruited our army on the Internet. It was cheap too. —The Alchemist
It’s not like we're getting played on TV so, we basically recruited our army on the Internet. How about that? It was cheap too. We didn’t have to spend a lot of money.
Fun. Key words. I’m only gonna speak in key words now. #Budget. #Fun. [Laughs.] Put hashtags before those too.
Jason Goldwatch is a master of that shit, I feel like he’s like part of our movement, Gangrene. From day one he’s done, he’s directed our [all but one of our videos]. He grasps our shit, he gets it.
So you know I gotta give him a lot of credit on that. I’m enjoying it and now we have an army all across the world. And they’ll destroy you if you don’t buy our album on January 25th.
Were they videos that he found? Because it didn’t seem like it was original footage.
The Alchemist: I dunno! Are they? Did we make them? Did we find them? I dunno! Oh, see the mystery we’re creating here? This is mysterious rap man. Oh spooky. This is real spooky promotions. Are you tuned in?
I am very tuned in right now.
The Alchemist: Do you think like people are tuned into that, right? They’re checking that?
I think that anyone who has seen that is very impressed by it.
The Alchemist: Now the thing is, will that send them to the store to purchase Vodka and Ayahuasca on January 25th? [Laughs.]
Well, let’s hope so.
The Alchemist: Yeah, that’s why we’re doing it. Pretty much. All the truth comes out now. Were not trying to be fresh, were just selling an album. [Laughs.] Nah, we’re having fun with it, man.
The funny thing is there’s a lot of guns and threats but it’s not in a serious way. It’s more so an obnoxious amount of guns and threats. Where does that concept come from?
They took this backpack label too far, man, there might be a gun in that backpack. Leave me alone. I’m fucking tough guy. Are you intimidated by that?
Oh No: Shit is hard.
The Alchemist: It’s real over here. They took this backpack label too far, man, there might be a gun in that backpack. Leave me alone. I’m fucking tough guy. Are you intimidated by that?
A little. [Laughs.]
The Alchemist: A little? I don’t even have to hurt you then. I just nod. I pick up a phone and bodies drop. Crazy shit around here. Did you see the artwork for Greneberg? We’re like wise guys over here. Ominous, ominous figures in the shadow. Gangrene. This is an ominous album, it’s real ominous. I like that word.
[Laughs.] Is that the word of the day? Ominous?
The Alchemist: Ominous. Don’t nobody bite my words neither. All y’all out there reading this—fam… Ominous.
The Alchemist: Yeah, ominous.
[Laughs.] Okay, well the album features a number of people you guys worked a lot with before, like Prodigy and Kool G Rap. How did they come about?
The Alchemist: Oh, take it away.
You still there Oh?
The Alchemist:[Laughs.] He’s there with that blunt, man. He’s getting into his 7th blunt. [Laughs.]
Oh No: Yeah, what was the question say it again?
I was asking about some of the features on the album.
Oh No: Oh yeah, that’s the fam. Fam came through and killed it.
The Alchemist: That’s what I’m talking about. Oh gets to the point, he doesn’t play around. But he’s got that blunt so, it’s different. Chill out son. [Laughs.]
Oh, are you actually smoking a blunt right now?
I would be willing to bet everything in my pocket that Oh is rolling another blunt while he’s already smoking [a blunt]. You ever seen someone roll three connected blunts? It looks like a fucking magic wand. [Laughs.] I think Oh has patented the magic wand. That shit looks like they broke it off a tree like a long-ass branch.
The Alchemist: I would be willing to bet everything in my pocket that he’s rolling another blunt while he’s already smoking [a blunt].
Oh No: True statement.
The Alchemist: Right, I know this guy! I know in New York they roll the two Phillie shit, you ever seen someone roll three connected blunts? It looks like a fucking magic wand. [Laughs.] I think Oh has patented the magic wand. That shit looks like they broke it off a tree like a long ass branch.
Is that what it’s like when you guys are in the studio? Smoking blunts the size of magic wands?
The Alchemist: We don’t smoke competitively but if it was a sport, I got my stacks on him. People [smoke with Oh No and] they pass out.
Oh No: It's real over here.
The Alchemist: Nobody has anything to prove as far as smoking but [weed] has gotten out of hand nowadays. It’s getting trendy. We need a new drug in rap. And that’s why we’re bringing Ayahuasca to the table on January 25th. We’re giving hip-hop a new drug. Put your blunt down and your drink too. Put the purple down for one second and drink this shit right here. [Laughs.]
And go on another journey.
The Alchemist: Yo, Complex is the shit. I think you guys are like on the top, right now man. I absolutely think, your guys’ lists are unmatched. List game proper.
Thank you man. I appreciate that. I also wanted to you about some of the other projects you have coming up. I know you and Action Bronson were working together.
The Alchemist: Hold on one second—Yo Action! See, I know Action Bronson.
[Alchemist hands Action Bronson the phone.]
Action Bronson: Hello, who’s this?
Action, what’s up man?
Action Bronson: What’s up man, who’s this?
This is Insanul from Complex.
Action Bronson: What’s up dude from Complex? How are you?
I’m doing good man, how are you?
[Alchemist snatches the phone back.]
The Alchemist: See that was my best Action Bronson impression, I do impressions of everybody. People know I’m good at impressions so that was my Action Bronson impression. It was good right?
[Laughs.] Yeah, it was pretty good.
The Alchemist: Nah we’re working right now we’re in the studio.
I know you were also working with Schoolboy Q.
The Alchemist: Absolutely. We’re gonna put out a record very soon. Action’s in L.A., we all worked on something together. I think the Internet might get something sooner than later—like real soon. You heard it here first.
Last year you dropped the Covert Coup mixtape with Curren$y. I heard you guys were dropping another mixtapethis year, is that true?
Yo, Complex is the shit. I think you guys are like on the top, right now man. I absolutely think, your guys’ lists are unmatched. List game proper. —The Alchemist
The Alchemist: I mean we’re working on it. He’s working on his album right now. I’m there for whatever he needs, he’s my funky rap friend. But I got a lot of projects coming, Oh does as well. We’re just getting this Gangrene thing going. We’re about to hit Europe up next month for the Vodka and Ayahuasca tour.
Oh, what kind of projects do you have coming up?
Oh No: I just finished this Ohnomite album. I got a project with Madlib coming out later this year. [I’m working with] Blackstar.
The Alchemist: And Oh just gave some crazy shit to Prodigy. P’s finishing up H.N.I.C. 3, the next release. I’m excited about that. I always thought Oh had that gutter shit that P needed.
Alright, you know, I guess wrapping things up for us. What do you want the fans to take from this project?
The Alchemist: They can take money out of their wallet and just buy it. [Laughs.] They can take their ass to the stores, they can take their fingers to iTunes. What else can they take Oh? They can shit while listening to it, you can take a nap, you can take your girl on a date to it. Just take. Take it.
[Laughs.] Alright, that’s all the questions I got. I dunno if there’s anything you guys wanted to add.
The Alchemist: Oh, any additions? Any last second additions?
Oh No: Take a blunt.
The Alchemist: I like that. Take a blunt. That’s deep. That’s poetry. It can mean a lot—take this blunt, man. Go ahead.
Oh No: Take a b-lunt.
The Alchemist: Take a b-lunt. All you girls, don’t be a c-unt. Oooh. See we’re rhyming over here, fam. Gangrene is in stores. People are gonna be able to write responses [to this article], right?
Yeah they’re gonna write in the comments.
The Alchemist: I need to see all my peoples shout me out in the responses cause I’m gonna read them. Let’s see how that works out. What if there’s only like three responses? I’m gonna look crazy! [Laughs.] I’m gonna make mad fake responses from different fans. Like, Gangrene23 is gonna write, “That shit is hot.” [Laughs.]
Have you ever done that before?
The Alchemist: All the time.
The Alchemist: Nah, I’m just kidding. Nah. I should just kept clicking on Gangrene videos to add up the views—thinking about getting my views up.