The Alchemist: High and Mighty

On his previous album, The Alchemist successfully put together a cohesive album filled with grimy bangers. Five years later, the producer/rapper is still on the same tip, but this time with more diversity from production to guest appearances. Chemical Warfare …

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On his previous album, The Alchemist successfully put together a cohesive album filled with grimy bangers. Five years later, the producer/rapper is still on the same tip, but this time with more diversity from production to guest appearances. Chemical Warfare (out July 7th) is a must buy, a well thought-out coordination of sinister melodies and hooks with the kind of verses that call for numerous “rewind that” moments.

Now most hip-hop fans are familiar with The Alchemist. They know his catalogue of highly sought-after beats, and they know his role as Eminem’s trustworthy DJ. But do they know how he became Em’s DJ? Or what took so long for a producer of his caliber to even get a chance to work with Slim Shady on a full track?

We were as curious as the fans, so we caught up with the multi-tasking producer to check out what he’s been cooking up. Trust us—from working with Kid Cudi, to exclusive new Relapse 2 material from Eminem, to the Jewish reign in hip-hop, The Alchemist is always happy to drop knowledge on his beat science. Have you spoken to Prodigy lately?

Alchemist: Yea, I go visit him. I spoke to him on the phone. He’s actually good. Getting his health right, mind right, staying away from the bulls***. He reads and watches the news. He’s up on more current events than I do. I knew he had some s*** to say about the swine flu thing. He says, “Son, you know that was just so the health industry could get money off the vaccine. They’re just putting out a flu so everybody gets scared so they could go make money.” I’m like, “Damn, son. You got the theories over there even.” But I’ve been playing a lot of music over the phone. We’re working, man. To kick things off about the album, why did Eminem only spit one verse on the track “Chemical Warfare?”

Alchemist: It’s leakage. That version leaked out before we could finish the track, man. But now the full track is ready. What about those short joints with Fabolous and Lil Fame?

Alchemist: Those were actually all short records. I wanted to have those songs that are used as a mediator between songs like those old Premier s****. Plus, I feel like attention spans for people are shorter these days. In regards to the album, I really liked the joint “That’ll Work.”

Alchemist: That was like an experimental beat. I had a sample on the MPC and I held on to all 32 buttons with my hands and the chopped sound goes, “Doo-loo-loo.” I was like, “That s*** sounds ill!” So I just pressed record and I put my whole hand on the MPC pads. I could have never programmed it like that. It was some mistake s***. Why’d you decided to put Juvenile and Three-6-Mafia on it?

Alchemist: At first I sent it to Ludacris. But he wanted to use it for his next album. So I was like, “Nah, I’m good. I want this s*** to come out now.” So I ended up sending it to Juvie and he got on it first. And it came out ill.

Alchemist: I loved how the record came out. When Three-6-Mafia got on, it had the bounce of a South record but it still sounds… …real gritty.

Alchemist: Yea! I felt like this is them coming to my world and me meeting them halfway. I didn’t want to do 1st Infantry part two. I wanted to do something to follow where I left off. So I had to change the casts. Some of the characters are still there. Yea, you still have similar characters, but compare to your first album, which had a heavy Queens presence, I felt like this one had a large West Coast presence instead. Beginning with “Lose Your Life” with Snoop singing the hook…

Alchemist: That record went through stages. What really made it ill to me was the video. Once the record came out, it got some love and I was like, “I need to add some visuals to this.” I didn’t want to do one of those Khaled videos where I’m in the background going [imitating Khaled’s dance moves], “Yea! Yea! This is my s***!” So I thought, “If I make it into a cartoon, I can control this s***.” It’s a gangster record and I’m going to do a gangster video? Lame, man! At the time I thought of rap zombies. One time when we did a show in France with Mobb Deep there were about 4,000 people in the crowd that were like, “Oh!” [Flailing his hands imitating zombies.] I remember looking at P like, “Yo, they look like zombies!” So I was thinking I’m the Pied Piper and I have my squad of rap zombies to f**k up s***. The dude who did the video is this guy name Devin Flynn who used to have a show on Cartoon Network called Ya’ll So Stupid. You don’t do acid? Watch this s*** because you’ll feel like this is what acid feels like. I have another question about the track “Therapy,” which features Blu and Kid Cudi. When you recorded that joint with Cudi, did you think he was going to be big as he is now?

Alchemist: My manager, my brother’s my manager, he and Paul Rosenberg have told me about Cudi years ago. He actually worked at the Bape store. Paul told me about this dude and gave me two songs and “Day ’N’ Nite” was one of them. And I was like, “Yo, this s*** is hot.” He came over and recorded couple things. The way he recorded his vocals I was like, “This dude is sick.” Was he high?

Alchemist: We were high, yes. He’s kind of like Snoop. Anything I ever did with Snoop the minute the beat came on, in about 20 seconds the hook was already there. Like [Snoop] will hear the beat and go, “Uh-ho! [Mumbling.]” And that’s the hook. That’s the same thing with Cudi. He was ill with the way he controlled his vocals. What about Blu?

Alchemist: My two favorite rappers that are new are Blu and Jay Electronica. I wouldn’t even say they are new because they’ve both been around. They’re so incredible because I feel like they still have that artistic integrity, which hasn’t been compromised by getting a big deal or catering to the radio, which I can’t say for this new crop of artists. But it still feels like labels are mad at those two. I like the rappers that are making the labels tight! And Jay Electronica?

Alchemist: He is like the wind. He is not a rapper! He is like a spirit. The first time I met him he was supposed to come over at night. Didn’t show up at all. Next morning he’s knocking on my door. So I’m like, “What’s up?” He’s like, “You want to just go for a walk?” [Laughs.] It was the weirdest s*** ever! I was like, “Uh…Word! H### yea!” We rolled up some weed, it was a Sunday morning and we walked all the way to the West Side Highway just chopping it up about life and everything. He asks mad questions and acts like a student, but he’s a teacher. Going back to Eminem, you just confirmed that he laced a full track with you. Can fans expect an Alchemist-produced track on the next Eminem album?

Alchemist: Anything can happen, man. The relationship is getting much better. A lot better than that time when the car accident occurred few years ago?

Alchemist: I mean at the time, I was just his DJ and he was under the influence of so many drugs, man. He doesn’t even remember that I was out there with him. When the fans heard I was linking up with Em they’re thinking, “They’ll be making music together.” Not Alchemist going out there doing funky scratches. At the time, there was too much s*** going on for him that he didn’t realize, “Yo, I got Alchemist on my team. That’s a fully loaded gun on my belt alongside other heaters.” Did you think that you were going to make music?

Alchemist: Part of the reason I got in the camp was because I knew the protocols. I knew Em before he blew up because of Paul [Eminem’s manager]. I’ve seen the whole s### even without being in the whole circle. I think that was also one of the reasons like, “Oh, Al’s not going to be hawking Em with beats.” The whole year I was on tour with him, I never did that once because I knew how to play my cards. Now that Em’s sober, he’s asking me more now. Right, but I also heard that Em only likes to rap over either his own beats or Dre’s beats.

Alchemist: Yea, because he doesn’t need more usually. You have unlimited Dre beats, and your own beats. What more beats do you need? Their relationship is ill because it seems like it’s gotten better. Really?

Alchemist: Yea. It seems like once Em sobered up and Dre realized it he was like, “You want to go? Let’s go!” For six months Dre was out there. It was like six dudes—Mark Batson, Dawaun Parker—his whole clique of guys. And I wasn’t out there, but from the stories Em told me it sounded great. Now that his head is straight his rhymes aren’t straight. He is making the most psychotic s***s I’ve ever heard. He has a song on Relapse 2 that’s so crazy. You know “Underground?” Yea.

Alchemist: It takes off where that stops and obliterates that. He rhymes in his regular voice…I’m afraid because the rhymes might slip out of my mouth. [Laughs.] Put it this way, there’s a song called “Insult to Injury.” You said it.

Alchemist: God! When mo’f*****s hear this s***, they’re going to s***! Dope. Now I have a theory. You ready? Old-school white rappers like MC Serch and the Beastie Boys to new-school white rappers and producers from Ill Bill, Necro, High and Mighty, Asher Roth, Drake, Scott Storch and yourself are all Jewish.

Alchemist: Is that true? Serch? Serch is Jewish.

Alchemist: Yea, but Asher isn’t Jewish. That’s a misconception. I see. But Drake is half-Jewish.

Alchemist: No, no, no. He said, “Lyor (Lie-Or) Cohen” in an interview. How are you going to say Lyor (Lie-Or) when you know it’s supposed to be pronounced Lyor (Lee-Or)—if you’re Jewish, man. I don’t know. [Laughs.] He wasn’t raised to be a good Jew. But if his mom is Jewish…

Alchemist: This is like that s*** in Howard Stern “Is He a Jew?” [Laughs.] But why do you think…I’m not saying cats like Bubba and Lil Wyte aren’t dope.

Alchemist: Because they aren’t Jewish, man! Everybody know it’s because of that! They got to convert, man! [Laughs.] [Laughs.] Get your Bar Mitzvahs on!

Alchemist: Get your Jewish bars up, man! It’s got to be because they are not Jewish. Go get that circumcision, man! [Laughs.] You know this a new theory you’re coming up with right now! It’s like Evidence too. He was like, “Why are all dope white rapper names start with E? MC Eon, Evidence, Eminem, Everlast…” He had a whole list one day. By the way Evidence is half-Jewish. You really might be on to something here, man? [Laughs.] Jewish rappers? I don’t know, huh? Well, the industry has a lot of Jewish guys. Maybe they favor them. So based on your theory, if Bubba was Jewish, he would’ve blown up. Maybe…[Laughs.]

Alchemist: Huh? [Laughs.] Am I putting words in your mouth? [Laughs.]

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