It is hard to argue the fact that the Alchemist has been one of the most prolific producers in Hip Hop the past four years. Whether he has been crafting classic cuts for Mobb Deep, Jadakiss or Nas, The Alchemist's extensive catalogue of work has earned him the reputation as this generation's DJ Premier. However, even though ALC has put in some tremendous work, it has been tough to match a face to his beats. Looking to change all of that, ALC's debut album "1st Infantry" is an attempt to let the Hip Hop public get familiar with Alan Maman.
While The Alchemist certainly enables each listener to grasp who he is on the production side, his effort is unfortunately tainted by less than stellar guest appearances. On the production side Alchemist continues his streak of amazing production, however, ALC's shaky line up of emcees fail to be as impressive as his well crafted beats. T.I. and his PSC Crew offer a formulaic crunk effort with "Pimp Squad". T.I.'s molasses flow, redundant wordplay and egotistical lyricism unfortunately makes for a boring and redundant effort. Similarly, Dilated Peoples come through for a sleep fest on "For The Record", which is the only sub par beat for ALC on the album. Sheek and J-Hood of D-Block also offer a generic street effort with "Boost The Crime Rate". J-Hood's verse is particularly bad with lines such as, "Hit yo ass with bullets the size of Heineken beers" and "We pack ooh wops the size of trumpets". On the R&B side of things, Chinky's off beat singing on "Strength Of Pain" also ruins a vintage ALC effort.
While the performances on "1st Infantry" are inconsistent, there are some redeeming efforts. Alchemist's lead single "Hold You Down", not only shows off his ability to chop up a track, but his skills on the mic as well. ALC magnificently utilizes the same sample that Just Blaze used on Jigga's "Soon You'll Understand". In fact, the production is so good even Prodigy wakes up, delivering two of his best verses in recent memory. While the same cannot be said for P's performance on Mobb Deep's "It's A Craze", all is forgiven thanks to Alchemist's sick beat. "D-Block To QB" featuring Havoc, Noyd, Styles & J-Hood is another dark and powerful effort that epitomizes Alchemist's distinct sound, as is "Dead Bodies" by The Game & Progidy and "Bangers" by Lloyd Banks.
While "1st Infantry" has its share of standout tracks, "Different Worlds" featuring Twin of The Infamous Mobb may very well be the album's best effort. With Alchemist representing the white kid from the suburbs, and Twin as the troubled youth from the projects, the two come together to paint a picture of their years growing up. And even though they came from two different worlds, it was the love for Hip Hop that brought them together.
Overall, "1st Infantry" is a dope debut album for Alchemist which proves he can hold his own for an entire album. However, due to inconsistent guest performances, the album is not the classic many expected. Nevertheless, "1st Infantry" still serves its purpose by allowing the Hip Hop public to become familiar with the man behind the beats.