The Alchemist can barely conceal his excitement for his debut album project called 1st Infantry. When entering his mid-town Manhattan studio, the underground beat maestro’s beats are already pounding sounds to be featured his masterpiece.
Still, despite crafting his masterwork, putting in work from the ground up and producing tracks for industry heavyweights such as Nas, Jadakiss, Mobb Deep, D-Block and Snoop Dogg, Al remains shrouded in mystery to the masses. These obscurities lead AllHipHop to him even though we’d connected several times before. The shroud of mystery is suddenly lifted as Alchemist reveals to us, several unreleased joints, his mixtape “Insomnia” and his extensive record collection.
He’s put his records to good use too. The Alchemist is poised to unearth his skills to the general population and shed his underrated status in the upcoming months with work with Infamous Mobb, Mobb Deep and Lloyd Banks. Furthermore, he talked to AllHipHop’s Dynasty and Jigsaw about the music industry, success and why he decided to pick up the mic (again).
Allhiphop.com: Being originally from the West coast, what brought you to the East?
Allhiphop.com: It was actually to go to school first. I went to college here. I had been here before a while ago with my mother. I forget the year but this was when break dancing was still out. That really got me open. I was only shopping to go to school in New York.
Allhiphop.com: You started your career with Cypress Hill, was that before or after school?
ALC: That was before when I was about 13. That’s how I got my start with them, The Soul Assassins, Muggs, House of Pain, Funkdoobiest.
Allhiphop.com: Whats your relationship like with them now?
ALC: It’s all family , I still got the ring on my hand ( shows Soul Assassins ring with initials SA on it) I still keep the pictures up. It all came full circle now because I did something for the new Cypress Hill album. I had always did remixes over the years and did stuff for Muggs but it was like, It feel like what I always looked forward to when I moved out here to do my own thing. I’m gonna always represent Soul Assassins but I want to be large enough to pass stuff off with Muggs. One day to do a beat on Cypress Hill’s album, that’s like full circle to me.
Allhiphop.com: You used to rhyme too, was when did you decide to do music?
ALC: I started rappin first, I was always leaning towards the music. The other guy in the group was always the visual and the hype man on stage and it was always me writing the rhymes and doing the music.
Allhiphop.com: That was with the Wholigans, right?
ALC: Yea , then after I got my record deal, I got some paper, and Lethal who is a dude from House of Pain, the dj, he did a lot of our beats, he showed me a lot too. He was one of Muggs understudies at the time too. House of Pain blew up and so goes the story. He took me to the Guitar Center right after we got our deal and was like “Buy this, ASR 10” I didn’t even know what it was at the time, everybody had a sp-12. Muggs used to lay out 6 Sps set up. He was known for that dusty sound. I didn’t even know what a ASR was but I just stuck with it. I still use it.
Allhiphop.com: Did you ever think about using other equipment
ALC: I already know how to use it well so I don’t have to think about what I have to do. I guess in that essence, I’m still a little lazy, so I don’t really want to get into another machine yet. I haven’t really mastered the ASR yet, but for what I do, I don’t think anybody can do it how I can do it. When I make beats with the ASR, I don’t even have to think about it, I could do it in the dark.
Allhiphop.com: Cypress Hill and Mobb Deep are two different forms of hip hop, how did that jump happen?
ALC: When you really analyze it Cypress and Muggs connected me to Mobb and it was a growth project. As I moved to New York, around that time, Muggs was doing the Soul Assassins project album and he reached out to Mobb Deep. It was like all of our favorite artist and Bigga B, he was instrumental on the west coast, at that time he was doing work with Muggs and connected Muggs with the Mobb. So, while I was in New York, Muggs had made the connection with Mobb Deep and did a song for his album and also Mobb’s clique, The Infamous Mobb. Muggs was real excited about working with the Infamous Mobb as well because they were young exciting groups. So Muggs made a relationship with them and that’s how I first met those guys. I started to make a little name for myself and Muggs was working on the Soul Assassins two album. He was like “Yo I want you to do a beat for the infamous Mobb” , that was “Thug Muzic” and it ended up on the Mobb Deep album, it was really meant for Mugg’s album. They liked it so much, they let P hear it and that’s how I ended up meeting them. It took a while us to click because they were never together at the same time. I remember this one dat I had and it was like 15 beats on there. I played it for them and on two different occasions, Hav and P both liked the same beat. That was “The Realest” with G Rap. They both leaned to that beat. P called me one night and was like “yo come to the studio and bring that beat you were playin” They didn’t even tell me G rap was gonna be there.
Allhiphop.com: What’s the deal with your new label ALC reocords?
ALC: It’s independent, it started really as something I started to do on a vinyl level. I didn’t always want to wait on a label to hire me to do a beat for somebody. I got songs here and there and I got relationships with people , I got some distributors to put out some vinyl get a artist poppin. That’s how ALC came about. It grew now it’s time to do this album and I went and got a deal under the ALC imprint under Koch. I’m gonna get more of a push if my solo album does well.
Allhiphop.com: Is your solo album gonna be just you or like a collabo with artist from your label?
ALC: I have to focus on Alchemist the artist first. For us to survive and sell tickets, it’s gotta be clear who’s stuff this is. I really was influenced with how (Dr.) Dre did his thing. I don’t want to put together something like a mixtape. I basically just dealt with the Mobb and the D Block camps and then I got a lot of other different artists on it.
Allhiphop.com: How did you get that Aast coast sound being from the West?
ALC: Premier was always my favorite. I grew up in the era were Dre was the man but East coast sound was heavy in the west. East was putting out good sh*t, good rap music, sometimes better than the West. It was just the sound that was coming out from there. Muggs is from Queens and he always incorporated that choppin up the beats sound.
Allhiphop.com: How do you move through different genres of Rap and still be accepted in the gangsta realm?
ALC: I grew up in a section of LA where it was nice and I came from the world of people who were rich to being here and grinding. I always wanted to get away from that, because I never felt that. To come from that to here, you always have that understanding and just being a fan of music in general and being a real person. Being a people person is important. Also as a producer you have to learn to be versatile. As a producer, you can prove your skills just like a actor can play a lot of roles. Also when you analyze my whole life, those were my peoples and it just branched into more stuff. It comes down to relationships. It makes sense when you analyze the connections.
Allhiphop.com: What do you think about the new crop of producers that remix whole albums?
ALC: That’s a result of technology. That’s straight technology. I think DJ’s would have did that back in the day if they could get their hands on all them acapellas. You got these MP3s and the sh*it is accessible now. You can do all this sh*t with Pro Tools and edits. I’m not big on that because I like to hear it how it was intended.
Allhiphop.com: How do you make each one of your beats different?
ALC: Being able to use samples, I feel gives me the opportunity to just flip it and to get different. Every record has a different color. You need to get your fingers dirty (in the crates) and I do my share of that.
Allhiphop.com: How much rhyming in the future do you plan to do?
ALC: I’ve been doing a lot of writing, but not a lot of recording. I get a lot of my influence from Havoc and P. I keep my own content, but anybody that I’m around make me raise my levels. I’ve ignored the rappin’ skills to make beats because I love to do it. At this point in my life its been a struggle trying to get out as a producer and I’m confident. My plan with 1st Infantry is to put like two records that I’m rhyming on so people will be like “I’m not mad at that”.
Allhiphop.com: Generally producers who rap are unsuccessful, do you think you’ll fall into that sect?
ALC: I was rockin shows when I was 15, I’ve been on so many shows, and in so many studios, and wrote so many rhymes. It’s gonna be accepted when I come out. I’m not gonna lean on somebody so I can sell records. I’m confident , I’m writing more. My plan is to put out this album and have something ready for these majors or independents to go hard. It will already be a little bit accepted.