No flash, no bling,
no mess, Alchemist is about beats. For the better part of six years Alchemist
has been one of the more reclusively successful producers in Hip Hop, producing
grimy banger after grimy banger. In those six years, producers have risen to
levels where their personalities and commercial draw equal, if not eclipse that
of the emcees they work with.
to have taken the “look-at-me” producer route, Alchemist decided
to lurk in virtual anonymity, with only the dopeness of his beats giving him
face. Alchemist has purposefully crafted beats, and a persona, that puts emphasis
on the MC’s lyrics, while encapsulating them in score-esque music that
is emotional, sinister, and beautifully trancing all at once.
Now, with his debut
album, 1st Infantry, Alchemist steps from behind his lyricists, and
puts his talents front and center. Alchemist took a second to speak with AllHipHop
about his transition from beats-smith to artist while also speaking on the practice
of jacking samples, why he desired to escape the opulent existence of his youth,
and the use of the word, n**ga by people of non-color.
What’s the theme and purpose behind the album?
basically an album based on production. It’s not like I rhyme on every
song, I actually on rap on two songs. It focuses on the beats which is how I
made my name over the years. It’s got a lot of my friends on it, I didn’t
reach out to people I didn’t know. It’s got my family on it, I got
Cypress on it, Dilated Peoples is on there, of course Mobb Deep is on there,
all the Lox is on there, M.O.P. is on there, this new artist Stat Quo, and Devin
the Dude. It just feels so good to have my own joint, instead of being in the
credits mad little, cause not everybody reads the inserts on the albums.
Nas is on the album, also Game. I knew I was forgetting some people.
Is the sound classic Alchemist or did you try some new things production wise?
Alchemist: I kept
it classic cause I felt like I haven’t had a chance to assert my sound
within the scope of my own album. The producers I was raised off of like Diamond
D, Large [Professor], Premier, Muggs, they all did albums with their groups
first. Then those producers would go out and do music for other people. For
me, it was the opposite. So that’s why I don’t go too far away from
my formula, you’re not going to be too shocked by anything on the album.
It’s just that good music
What are your thoughts on producers being the main attraction on some songs,
with the artist being a secondary attraction?
Alchemist: I learned
over the years that the artist is the star of the song. Ya know you can make
your beat roll over and play dead, and do tricks, and breakdown and all type
of s**t for the fans of beats. But at the end of the day, the world is listening
to the message.
Do you feel there is a difference between a producer and a beat maker?
Alchemist: I think
in order to be a producer you have to be a beat maker, but I you can be a beat
maker and not necessarily be a producer. It’s like Karate, the beat maker
is a white belt, a beginner. The producer is a black belt. A producer collaborates
with artist more than a beat maker. You can’t just give a beat to an artist
and say okay I produced it. Yeah, but there are a few artist that you can do
that with, like my man Buckwild told me he would just give B.I.G. a beat and
he was so skilled that you would just come back later and the song would be
done. Esco’s the same way, I don’t have to be there with Nas. But
Nas actually likes the input, he appreciates input. I remember when we did “No
Ideas Original,” I brought him this break and we talked a little bit about
it and I came back two days later and it was done exactly how we spoke about
A lot of producers seem to be pretty relegated to either the underground or
commercial circles, but you seem to bounce back a forth as you please. Why do
you think the industry affords you that luxury?
cause I built a foundation, but I don’t know, cause I think if I did something
out of my league people would definitely come at me. I don’t know if I’ve
gone too far into the commercial world yet. The new Mobb Deep single is probably
the furthest I’ve gone commercially. I’m careful to keep what I’ve
Jaheim’s new joint, produced by KayGee is a little too close to yours.
Is there any code of the streets for producers with that?
man, you can tell by how Trackmasters did the Beatnuts with that J. Lo s**t,
they didn’t call up the Beatnuts or nothing. Amongst certain heads who
I got respect for and who have a mutual respect for me, yeah sure there’s
a code. I would never do something like that, because I think back to that era
when biting was completely not tolerated. Nowadays, the word biting doesn’t
exist anymore. Back in the day you had to be original, having your own style
is what made you special. So as far as using other peoples loops and stuff,
I try to steer away from it, or if I’m gona use it I’m gona twist
it up and flip it into something they wouldn’t have thought of so even
the originator would respect it.
So you weren’t even a little bit pissed when you heard the Jaheim song?
it was just funny cause in the song he’s like “When worst comes
to worst you gotta put your women first.” That makes me think they definitely
had to hear my track.
Look at you being all humble, like they couldn’t have heard that song.
all good. It’s kind of funny cause Jaheim has a new artist and they just
called up me and P (Prodigy) because they’re using “Keep it Thoro.”
Now I’m starting to think, damn KayGee call me up. But it’s all
love, we get our residuals and it’s all good.
Are there any artists that you’ve deeply wanted to work with that you
Jay. Ya know, we talked, I seen him recently too, so it might happen.
Are we gona hear an Alchemist beat on Street’s Disciple?
Alchemist: I don’t
think so man. I just spoke to them, and the joints we did, I don’t think
they made it. They will probably be on Lost Tapes II, I think that’s what
they were talking about doing.
You grew up in the Hills, right?
I went to school in Beverly Hills. On a general level my folks are paid, but
compared to the people I grew up around, I mean I grew up around billionaires
and all the actors and actresses kids. It was a trip, but it always made me
want to get away from there, I didn’t like it. I just felt like it was
What do your folks think about your job? Do they even know much about what you
ya know they always wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer, cause I was always
good in school. But now they see that I’m successful and they’re
just happy to see me excel.
Lately there seems to be an emerging set of producers who are unquestionably
talented and also happen to be Jewish. Is there a connection with Jewish people
and Hip Hop?
Alchemist: I think
it’s always been a connection between Jewish people and Hip Hop. They
were some of the people who really gave it [a] start back in the day. I can’t
really explain what it is, but it’s always been a lot of Jewish cats in
the music industry and in the Rap game.
You are talking to me now from the office of Shady Records, what’s your
relationship with Shady Records?
you know that Goliath Management is also apart of Shady. My brother works for
Paul Rosenberg, and Paul really loves my brother. He is a big part of their
management office. So about a year or two ago, when it was time to do this project,
I stepped to Paul and asked to join the company. Also Paul was my Lawyer before
Em blew up, so we had a previous relationship. When Em blew up, Paul stopped
being a lawyer and focused on management. My brother pretty much handles everything
related to me, but Paul shows us a lot of love whenever my brother hits a wall
with not enough power, or something like that. I really wanted to just prove
myself first and show Paul that I’m not a leech or nothing. Ya know I
didn’t want to be like, “Yo, now that I’m down with you let
me do beats for Em and 50.” Although, I would’ve loved to have them
on the album. I want to build my own wing to this company with ALC.
AHH: Do you still
keep in contact with artist you worked with when you were virtually unknown,
like Buck 50 and Freddie Foxx?
yeah, as much as I can I try to keep in touch with everybody, see what they’re
up to and try and support them. I just spoke to Freddie recently and I got to
get him some new s**t for his project. Buck, that’s my family. Ya know
he’s in and out of jail and always in some crazy s**t, but anything he
needs from me he knows I’m one call away.
AHH: I have some
white friends who have openly admitted to having casually referred to themselves
and their other white friends as n**ga on a consistent basis throughout their
youth, what are your thoughts on that?
I think that’s a neighborhood thing. Like there’s a lot of white
kids in New York who get away with it. But in places like Compton and other
parts of the country, it really rubs people the wrong way. I’ve been through
my issues with that, like it’s not what you say, it’s how you say
it—but truth is, it is what you say sometimes too. People just get offended
by certain speech and I respect that. So I would never put that in my rhymes
or just speak on it like that. Everyone feels different ways about different
words and things, so I just try to stay clear of that and make it all about
the music. I know how I would feel as a Jewish person if someone said something
derogatory that I thought was offensive.
According to Koch
Records, 1st Infantry is slated for September 21st.