Among the most revered rap producers to surface during the '90s, the Alchemist crafts sample-heavy, atmospheric soundscapes that have elevated albums by the likes of artists such as Dilated Peoples, Mobb Deep, Nas, Swollen Members, Prodigy, and Kendrick Lamar, spanning the decades with his signature old-school sound. In addition to his production work, he is also a rapper, delivering his debut studio effort, 1st Infantry, in 2004. While his solo output remained slim, his prolific collaborations yielded dozens of joint projects with fellow emcees Oh No, Curren$y, Action Bronson, Evidence, and others. Born Alan Maman, he grew up in Beverly Hills and began his career in L.A. before eventually moving to New York City. As a teenager, he was part of the duo the Whooliganz (with Scott Caan, son of James) and the greater rap collective the Soul Assassins (with Cypress Hill, House of Pain, etc.), and released the single "Put Your Handz Up" on Tommy Boy in 1993, though the Whooliganz's debut full-length, Make Way for the W, was eventually shelved. The Alchemist continued making beats, however, working with and learning from DJ Muggs on 1995's Cypress Hill III: Temples of Boom as well as with childhood friend Evidence of Dilated Peoples. These connections led to a prolific career as a reliable source for tough yet detailed beats suffused with soul. After moving to New York to attend college, Al hooked up with Queensbridge duo Mobb Deep, producing the songs "The Realest" and "Thug Music" from their 1999 record Murda Muzik, a collaboration that led to work with Pharoahe Monch, Royce da 5'9", Fat Joe, Defari, Freddy Foxxx, Ludacris, Big Daddy Kane, and Ghostface Killah, and even rock acts like Linkin Park and Morcheeba. In 2004, the Alchemist released his first solo full-length, 1st Infantry, which, besides featuring his own beats, also had him rapping alongside Stat Quo, the Game, Lloyd Banks, Mobb Deep, and Dilated Peoples, among others, and in 2005, after Eminem's DJ Green Lantern left the Anger Management 3 tour, the Detroit rapper hired Al as his replacement. In 2006, the Alchemist showcased his work with a pair of mixtapes of previously released and unreleased material, The Chemistry Files and No Days Off. After releasing the instrumental collection Rapper's Best Friend in 2007, 2009's Chemical Warfare featured Eminem, Juvenile, Dilated Peoples, and the Lady of Rage. The year 2012 found him releasing Vol. 2 of Rapper's Best Friend along with Vodka & Ayahuasca, a collaborative album with producer/rapper Oh No recorded under the name Gangrene, and Russian Roulette, an album built by sampling Russian music. A year later he worked with Prodigy on the album Albert Einstein, while 2015 saw him collaborate with Oh No on Welcome to Los Santos, a collection inspired by the virtual radio stations found in the video game Grand Theft Auto V. Featuring samples from Israeli radio and thrift store albums the producer bought while visiting Israel, the beat tape Israeli Salad was also released in 2015. During the next couple years, the Alchemist was behind collaborative projects with the likes of Curren$y, Havoc, and Jay Worthy. He issued a fourth volume of Rapper's Best Friend and continued to produce for a select group of artists, most prominently Kendrick Lamar, Westside Gunn, and Anderson .Paak. He also continued his collaborative work, joining Freddie Gibbs and Curren$y on 2018's Fetti and the Cool Kids on 2019's Layups. ~ Marisa Brown
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released July 17, 2012 | Mass Appeal
Although he's worked with some of rap's biggest hitmakers -- Eminem, Nas, Fat Joe, and so on -- producer the Alchemist is a rangy dude, hanging those platinum albums on the wall on one hand, while sticking with underground thugs like Mobb Deep through thick and thin on the other, all while keeping his left-field rep in check by wilding out with producer/rapper Oh No in the Gangrene project. Coming hot off the heels of Gangrene's Vodka & Ayahuasca -- a very '70s and very psychedelic album -- Russian Roulette is the Alchemist going solo and thematic, constructing tracks by sampling old Russian records -- jazzy, psychedelic, soulful, and otherwise -- and grabbing some dialog from '80s movies that were cold war-themed. His final touch is the jaw- droppingly excellent guest list that contributes to these 30 short tracks, all strung together for an album meant to be taken as a whole. That last bit of advice comes from the Alchemist himself, and it's certainly the best plan, as these shards of tight-knit '70s pop loops, jazz drum breaks, and funky bass beats -- all of them feeling very Euro-sourced and not necessarily Russian -- are arranged like a wild mixtape from the edge. This cohesive piece is still dotted with stand-out moments, including Action Bronson doing his usual, magical food thing ("Decisions Over Veal Orloff"), Danny Brown and Schoolboy Q teaming-up for a cut with that wild, Ol' Dirty Bastard bounce ("Flight Confirmation"), and Evidence returning for a cut which feels like the chilled follow-up to his previous great Alchemist team-up "So Fresh" ("Never Grow Up"). Those with a Soviet fetish could argue that past "Flight of the Bumble Bee" and the red scare artwork, the album doesn't deliver enough of the superpower's Cold War strut, but getting hung up on Russian Roulette not sounding Russian enough would be like complaining that the Beatles Revolver doesn't shoot straight. It's an amazing record even without the concept, comrade. ~ David Jeffries
Rap/Hip-Hop - Released November 8, 2005 | eOne Music
If you're well versed in East Coast hardcore rap of the late '90s and early 2000s (Nas, Mobb Deep, the LOX, etc.), chances are you're familiar with the Alchemist, even if you've never heard of him until now. Know first, if you don't already, he's no rapper. He's a fairly quiet guy, in fact, a hard-working producer who lets his beat-making speak for him -- dark, forceful productions for some of the best dark, forceful rappers in New York and beyond. Roughly ten years after he broke into the game big time with Queensbridge rappers Infamous Mobb and, in turn, Mobb Deep, he unleashed his debut album, 1st Infantry. It's a godsend for fans of his productions. Up until this point, you've had to gather up his work one production at a time -- for instance, a track or two from the latest Nas album, a couple from the recent Mobb Deep album, and so on. No more need to scavenge, however, as 1st Infantry is somewhat of an Alchemist mixtape, rounding up 19 different productions, all of them exclusive to this album and each boasting a brand-name rapper. Some of the featured rappers here include Nas (the top active rapper in New York circa late 2004); Prodigy and Havoc (of Mobb Deep); Styles, Sheek, and J-Hood (of the LOX); the Game and Lloyd Banks (of G-Unit); Dilated Peoples (a top Left Coast hip-hop group that is a bit of a wonderful surprise here); and others including M.O.P., Devin the Dude, Chinky, B Real, and T.I. Believe it or not, everything here is first-rate -- the beats especially. You really have to wonder whether or not the Alchemist had been saving some of his best beats for himself! The raps are a bit off the cuff -- freestyle-like, actually -- which is precisely what you'd expect from a mixtape-style album like this. Hooks are minimal, if existent at all, but that's just fine for an album like this. This is no commercial effort. It's not targeted at radio or MTV or anything like that. Rather, it's a fairly underground effort, emphasizing beats and rhymes -- not pop hooks and the latest trends. One for the true hip-hop heads this is, and further proof that the Alchemist is one of the top producers in the game circa 2004. So forget about Kayslay, Whookid, Green Lantern, and all those dudes. Sure, they put out some tight mixtapes, but can they craft beats like these? Those guys are just the medium -- Alchemist is the source. ~ Jason Birchmeier
Miscellaneous - Released September 5, 2014 | ALC
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