Reviews

Alchemist and Oh No – “You Disgust Me” – (Album Review)

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Set to be released a mere four months to the day after the duo of Beverly Hills DJ and Rapper Alchemist and Producer/ fellow rhymer Oh No, who come together under the moniker of Gangrene, unleashed their brilliantly experimental Welcome to Los Santos on April 14th of 2015, the duo’s latest thirteen track and fifty minute long opus, You Disgust Me, continues the fantastic marathon of pure, unfiltered Hip Hop carried through their previous effort. Though You Disgust Me as a whole is more content to give us the hammering menace synced up with rugged, underground style emceeing that has proven timeless throughout the history of Rap, and not the dabbling in various genres with more than a touch of a retro 1980’s impression as they did in Welcome to Los Santos, the album is just as strong for being such a wonderful reminder of the raw power of the musical genre itself and how tremendously well it stripped the form to its roots and delivers on all arenas that those with a genuine concern for amazing production driven by witty, aggressive lyricism always seek in Hip Hop.

Beginning with “The Filth”, which is an oddly appropriate fifty-five second skit which sets the mood and address the ideas brought forth in the album title well enough, Alchemist takes the microphone and showcases that he is nearly as deft on the microphone as on the turntables with “Reversals”. The beat is solid, and doesn’t distract from the focus on the verbosity on display, and with its notes of Rock it is a well-done opening track.

“Sheet Music”, which plays like a haunting eulogy in both its haunting sound and given that it allows a strong emcee turn from the recently deceased Sean Price, sets the mood for the majority of the record. It has a dark, somber, brooding tone to it which is the perfect pulpit for Mobb Deep’s Havoc to perform his trademark violent rhymes and for Alchemist to again come to the forefront and prove his Rap skills which all three Rappers do with gusto.

“Flamethrowers pt. 2” is a disappointment in the production department  but another winning example of how triumphant, and how much of a solo saving grace, true lyricism alone can be. The beat Gangrene conceives here is an off-putting, repetitive conflagration of several simple bits but the refrain connects Alchemist’s brutal, attention-getting, quip filled and deft verses together to make this well-worth the space it occupies here (even though it may have been better as an a cepella tune for that would’ve genuinely thrown us headlong into the idea of how much force lyrics alone can have as Alchemist and Oh No are trying to do in this track).

With a mention of Humphrey Bogart, which sets the tune for the 1950’s film noire punctuated by a impressively jazzy and soulful trumpet driven narrative, “The Man with the Horn” bridges musical categories and time frames effortlessly. Alchemist dictates a story fully fitting into a piece of Bogart cinema in a way that gives off a cool, original feel that is fresh, unfiltered Rap and a standout on this LP in terms of successful experimentation in sound and lyricism.

Though nothing on the rest of You Disgust Me is anywhere near as distinctive as this previous song, what it lacks in originality it more than makes up for in how gripping, edgy and abrasive it is in its comprehensive grasp of the tone and high-pedigree emceeing necessary for effective Rap. “Better Things” gives Alchemist another remarkable as both producer and Rapper over a slick, ominous soundtrack and the creativity of the duo is at its pinnacle with the fantastic Horror movie on wax sensation left by the gritty track “Gluttony” (which samples to hilarious effect, and also favors the tune incredibly well, The Human Centipede).

“The Scrapyards” and it’s follow-up “Noon Chuckas” are brazenly enjoyable, rowdy examples of infectious fight music that carry the collective strengths of the beat and quality verses present throughout the music which proceeded it. Gangrene provides a musical backdrop which only elevates the high-caliber examples of emceeing personified on these two tracks.

“Driving Gloves” gives Action Bronson a chance to imitate Ghostface Killah again, which works despite the sinking sensation that he may never actually come into his own lyrical format and approach, and delivers wonderfully meticulous storytelling skills over strangely upbeat instrumentation. It may sound off, given the sinister characteristics harped upon throughout the majority of You Disgust Me, but it comes off as a nice bit of a variety and a singular, charismatic departure that gives the LP more artistic depth overall.

Chuck Strangers and Evidence bring solid verses to the table on a song that could have come off as materialistic but, instead, comes off as a strong description of events in the amusing “Just for Decoration”. Gangrene’s song construction is reminiscent of the uplifting din present in “Driving Gloves” and it helps offer more range in the general directions that album utilizes.

For the last two tracks, “Hazardous Materials” and “Hidden Hand”, Alchemist and Oh No return to the perilous brood that appears throughout this endeavor and finish You Disgust Me off with the eerie tone set up in “Sheet Music” with deft scratching, a brilliant use of sampling and, most importantly, further raw and always listenable turns from Alchemist in the emcee department. “Hazardous Materials” makes witty use of the LPs title and the grime of his hometown, often trading wise references to both and the song’s moniker with envy inducing ease in his wordplay, and “Hidden Hand” is a testament to Alchemist’s DJ skills that comes off as earned braggadocio and not the empty, egotistic banter prevalent far too many emcees reach out for to fill the space of a sixteen bar rhyme. These two tracks compliment one another phenomenally and provide the perfect, and most effective, way to bring the previously addressed topics and impressions left by what came from You Disgust Me earlier to the forefront once again to create an amazing closing statement.

Alchemist and Oh No’s latest may have been released only one hundred and twenty days after Gangrene’s Welcome to Los Santos but it certainly doesn’t feel that way. Nearly everything present herein is meant to give those who truly know and understand the rugged rhyming, and aggressive style, of non-watered down Rap the glorious sense of resurrection it has been desperately missing. It may not be as wide-ranging, or have a fraction of the variety heard in Welcome to Los Santos, but what it lacks in these departments it more than makes up in giving us a thirteen track reminder of what makes Rap by far the most emotional, challenging, original, powerful and groundbreaking of all musical genres. That reason alone makes this record well worth your time and in a world sinking with the weight of auto-tune overuse gives true Hip Hopers a reason to celebrate and proclaim that Gangrene is one of the few duos who go out of their way to remind us why we developed such a love for this sonic force to begin with.

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