Hard as a crack rock, or a vodka bottle (Ayahuasca grows on vines but pushes wigs back just the same). 2011 rained high-profile tag-team records – see The Throne, Bad Meets Evil. But somewhere in the mud puddles, Oh No and The Alchemist decided to re-link and construct a joint that’s far more consistent than those of their major label bros. Engineered around the mechanics that made last year’s Greneberg EP (w/ Roc Marciano) so thorough, Vodka & Ayahuasca is a salute to no-bullshit hip-hop done right.
If Gangrene’s Gutter Water felt decidedly weird, somewhat sparse and random, then V & A is a welcome progression towards more cohesive song and album construction. Sure, the first LP was steady blunted–type heady in its own right–but the tracks weren’t as well developed from a production standpoint, nor were they infused with lyricism so potent. Take “Top Instructors,” the best track off V & A: the beat bounces like an East Coast indie Al might have blessed in ’98. The keys sample and effects are ominous but energetic enough not to add any dead weight, while the flows keep pace like Marion Jones – proof that you can be lit and still on some emcee shit.
Other high-water marks include “Flame Throwers,” with its funky bass and Primo-esque stabs; “Dump Truck” (feat. Prodigy), a tripped out “Nautilus” flip; the distorted sludge rock of “Gladiator Shit” (feat. Kool G Rap); and the all around relentless “Gang Groove.” At just 14 tracks, including an intro and outro, Vodka & Ayahuasc a doesn’t overextend itself into realms of predictability, flawed experimentation, ill-advised guest spots or listener apathy. It’s a deftly executed reminder that focus begets substance, and that sometimes a boot to the face is more fruitful than waterboarding.