Watch your girls and that wack selection of corny, pop-tart music – the “1st Infantry” is armed and ready to go, taking over the ears of hip-hoppers and hip-poppers alike.
An alchemist is a scientist endeavored with the ability to transform ordinary metals into gold. The Alchemist, a gritty Californian producer with one foot firmly implanted in the New York concrete, is almost a parody of what an actual alchemist is – a mad scientist behind the production boards that transforms an ordinary beat into a soundtrack that accompanies and envisions the tough-as-nails New York street sound.
Alchemist’s debut, “1st Infantry,” follows in the footsteps of the Pete Rock’s and DJ Premier’s of the hip-hop underworld, by unleashing an entirely self-produced mixtape of sorts showcasing a variety of artists and beatmaking abilities. In part, Alc’s first shot at “1st Infantry” serves half as a dedication to those that put him on at the beginning of his career, half as an ode to the New York hip-hop community, and half as an opportunity for him to establish a range of his production portfolio – nothing less than 150% from The Alc on “1st Infantry.”
“Hold You Down,” the album’s lead single and only real commercial attempt, pairs Prodigy, Illa Ghee, Nina Sky, and a rapping Alchemist with an incredibly addictive and stuck-in-your-head sample from Al Kooper’s “Love Theme” that proves Alc’s hit potential. But what lies surrounding “Hold You Down” is a lethal dosage of the ever-growing grimy Alchemist style that truly does transform ordinary New York emcees into street-tale wizards before the very eyes of the scientist himself.
From the extremely gangstered-out combination of G-Unit’s The Game and Prodigy over the hard-hitting piano riffs of “Dead Bodies” to the over-the-top nastiness and craziness of M.O.P. and Stat Quo on “Stop the Show,” Alchemist concocts deadly and vicious anecdotes to supercede the watered-down and poppy sounds that other New Yorkers have adopted.
The breezy production of Nas and Prodigy’s “Tick Tock” sweeps across the Queensbridge landscape and provides the perfect backdrop for the cool street tales from both, while the LOX swing through on the consistent “The Essence,” with Jadakiss, Styles, and Sheek coming hard on the microphone in a rare appearance from all three together.
Alchemist’s best decisions on “1st Infantry,” however, may appear in the form of his effervescent and surprisingly open personality that shines through on both his production efforts, as well as his words between and during tracks. Though he only raps on two tracks throughout the entire album, “Different Worlds” (featuring Twin Gambino of Infamous Mobb) may very well be one of the highlights of the entire disc with Twin and Alc exchanging tales of their two very different lifestyles growing up (Twin wore hand-me-downs and pumped crack, while Alchemist had new clothes and paid attention in class, for the record).
A once-famous, now retired basketball player once said: “How messed up is this country when the most popular rapper is white and the most popular golfer is black?” And now, the current top New York producer is from California. Go figure.