The Alchemist & Oh No “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” Review

The Alchemist and Oh No first teamed up as Gangrene in 2010, releasing their debut album, Gutter Water, that year. They established themselves as the ultimate duo. Both members excel within the underground scene with their unique approaches to lyricism and beat-making. As rappers and producers, their styles complement each other artistically. The Gangrene sound is defined by experimental production with busy instrumentation.

Alchemist and Oh No’s aggressive and jarringly violent bars reflect the organized chaos in the beats. Gangrene’s subsequent albums, 2012’s Vodka & Ayahuasca and 2015’s You Disgust Me, showed that no matter how much time had passed between albums and their countless solo ventures, they remained true to their sound. Heads I Win, Tails You Lose, their fourth full-length album and first in nine years, picks up right where they left off. 

Gangrene’s Filthiest Album Yet

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose immediately places listeners into Gangrene’s mystical world of hard-hitting boom-bap loops. Its opening track, “Congratulations, You Lose,” begins with an ominous bassline and a thumping drum break. Setting the tone for the rest of the album, The Alchemist comes in with a menacing verse. He paints a vivid picture of “chewin a matchstick, I’ll spike the punch and send you on a bad trip.” Oh No matches the aggressive nature of Al’s bars in his verse, making for an exciting beginning of Gangrene’s reunion. The production on songs like “Oxnard Water Torture” and “The Gates of Hell” continues the album’s abrasive soundscape. The former’s screeching melody and off-kilter drums and the latter’s dissonant piano loop and jazzy percussion create an equally unsettling listening experience as it is intriguing.

Throughout its 39-minute run time, Heads I Win, Tails You Lose maintains its momentum. Its 13-song tracklist is quite consistent in its creative direction. The beats are bizarre and adventurous yet unmistakably traditional for The Alchemist and Oh No’s collaborative work. It might be a challenging listen compared to albums like Alfredo or A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night, but Gangrene is distinct from their other side projects because of its unconventional style. 

Undeniable Chemistry

In addition to its cohesive tracklist, The Alchemist and Oh No continue their collaborative chemistry as both rappers and producers. Al handles the beats on eight songs, while Oh No produced the other five tracks. Both artists are versatile musicians, but the production blends together seamlessly as they stay true to their sound. As rappers, their chemistry is on full display. The Alchemist’s choppy flow and Oh No’s unpredictable rhyme patterns complete each other as they create new pockets within their own beats. 

They rarely stray away from their signature flows, but the rapping is satisfying because they accompany each other so well. The features on Heads I Win, Tails You Lose also support their vocal and musical chemistry as Evidence, Boldly James, and ANKHLEJOHN specialize in this vein of underground hip hop. They also are known for sounding comfortable over production from The Alchemist and Oh No and when they rap alongside them. Evidence nonchalantly slides across the chill groove of “Magic Dust” while ANKHLEJOHN’s nasal vocal tone stands out on the minimal loop of “The Gates of Hell.” Additionally, Boldy James’s verse on the Alchemist-produced “Just Doing Art” aligns with the sounds of their three collaborative albums. Even with the guest verses, The Alchemist and Oh No do not rely on features. Their individual skill sets as rappers nearly outshine their own production.

The Progression Of The Alchemist & Oh No’s Everlasting Partnership

Nine years removed from their previous album, Heads I Win, Tails You Lose proves Gangrene to be reliable in delivering unorthodox beats and sharp rhymes. As a group, The Alchemist and Oh No may be predictable, but Gangrene remains unique in their sizable catalogs. The slow loops on their latest album are more subdued compared to that of Vodka & Ayahuasca and are more relaxed than You Disgust Me. Still, Heads I Win, Tails You Lose is Gangrene at their most refined, displaying each member’s artistic strengths. Between their solo ventures and countless collaborations, The Alchemist and Oh No always manage to tap into the sound they established long ago. Heads I Win, Tails You Lose assures that their everlasting partnership has not dwindled in the slightest. 

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Updated: April 23, 2024 — 3:01 am