Artist: AlchemistTitle: 1st InfantryRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Matt Barone
Consistency and dedication are the true keys to success, two character traits that producer extraordinaire The Alchemist definitely possesses. Coming up under the wing of Cypress Hill’s Muggs, Alchemist went on to produce hood classics for the likes of Prodigy (“Keep it Thoro”) and Jadakiss (“We Gonna Make It”), while lacing heavyweights such as Nas with shining gems for their respective albums. Carving a solid niche as the steady provider of rugged yet soulful backdrops for a diverse clientele, Alchemist is finally ready to drop his long awaited full-length, 1st Infantry. More of a compilation than a full-fledged Alchemist solo record, Al enlists an incredible line-up to ignite his flammable production.
1st Infantry pleases from Intro to theclosing track, as Alchemist’s board skills maintain quality while the guest MC’s contribute strong performances. Shady/Aftermath’s latest Southern acquisition Stat Quo instantly impresses alongside M.O.P. over frantic vocal samples on the raucous “Stop The Show,” while Lloyd Banks tears through the abrasive and self-explanatory “Bangers.” “D Block to QB” finds Big Noyd, J Hood, Havoc, and Styles P. at their grimiest on top of Al’s darkly atmospheric organ strikes, and B-Real matches Cypress Hill’s best days on the synth-driven “Bang Out.”
Rather than invite just the usual suspects to bless his production, Alchemist nicely uses 1st Infantry to collaborate with some unexpected voices. The always charismatic and entertaining Devin The Dude checks in to exercise pimpish swagger on the laidback ‘Where Can We Go?,” acting as a welcome break from the rest of 1st Infantry’s thug music. T.I. continues his near-perfect beat-riding abilities over the scattered horns and aggressive piano keys of “Pimp Squad,” clearly eclipsing his lesser-talented brethren P.S.C. Even Alchemist himself grabs the microphone on 1st Infantry, hinting at a promising future as a true double threat a la Kanye West. On the must-hear “Different Worlds,” Al and Infamous Mobb member Twin trade bars about their contrasting upbringings, showing how Hip-Hop unites both the streets and the suburbs, in a creative and perfectly executed highlight.
Simply put, 1st Infantry delivers the goods that those anxiously awaiting its release have been expecting. Listening to Nas coast over the breezy acoustic guitars of “Tick Tock,” Game go for broke on the menacing “Dead Bodies,” and The Lox in top form on “The Essence” makes Alchemist’s album a real urban soundtrack. Touching all areas of the country, Al successfully caters to all tastes, and after one listen to this album, it should be clear that Alchemist is easily the game’s most simultaneously slept-on and respected producer. While draft dodging is a prominent discussion these days in our society, enlisting in The Alchemist’s army is a no-brainer. Unlike our current President and troop leader, Alchemist is arguably the best at what he does, and 1st Infantry is sufficient evidence to support this claim.