Release Date: Jul 17, 2012
Record label: DECON
The Alchemist is rightly regarded as one of the greatest Hip Hop producers of the last 15 years. He has made dominating mainstream hits like Prodigy’s “Keep It Thoro,” Cam’ron’s “Wet Wipes” and Nas’ “No Idea’s Original,” all the while simultaneously supplying esteemed artists rarely heard on radio, such as Defari or Infamous Mobb with production just as potent. With nearly 20 years in the game, the one thing Alchemist appears to be missing is an album under his name that lives up to his for-hire catalog.
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.
Alan Marman probably didn’t intend to be the invisible man of hip-hop; it’s just a symptom of a production style that has focused on shedding modern hip-hop of its pop leanings. As the Alchemist, his resume reads like a who’s who of East Coast hip-hop, with his bruising Bronx beats filling in the deep album track positions for greats like Nas, Guru, Mobb Deep, Kool G Rap and Big Pun. Still, despite his best efforts – solo records decorated with thuggish images of himself, his name spread across in large, imposing lettering, for example – appropriate recognition has eluded him.
The Alchemist has had a storied, unique path in hip-hop history. He came up under Cypress Hill producer DJ Muggs before producing for late-1990s West Coast backpacker heroes Dilated Peoples. He was soon introduced to Mobb Deep and found his beats in the hands of a diverse array of East Coast street rappers, from Nas to CNN to Jadakiss. More recently, he's worked with a range of mid-tier rap heroes, from Curren$y to Action Bronson to Freddie Gibbs, and is a reliably creative producer, even if his style of production has shifted away from the hip-hop mainstream.
Full albums from hip-hop producers can pull one way or the other, working either as a too-narrow spotlight for the name on the album jacket or providing a platform from which only the guests shine. Then there are the albums that manage to put both the producer and the rappers on equal footing. This year’s already produced such a disc from Oh No, and now that producer’s partner-in-crime in the Gangrene duo has his turn.
While he's known for the countless ill soundscapes he's crafted for the likes of some of rap's more notable figures (Prodigy's "Keep It Thoro," Cam'ron's "Wet Wipes"), it is producer Alchemist's extremely solid body of work for rappers not quite melting in the limelight that continues to impress (the Covert Coup project with Curren$y, anyone?). On his latest project, Russian Roulette, Alc dishes up a head-spinning collection of instrumentals and vocal tracks that draw inspiration from Mother Russia and its canon of fine traditional films. With verses courtesy of everyone from Schoolboy Q and Action Bronson to Roc Marciano and Danny Brown, Alc continues to wear his hazy influences on his sleeve, serving up gems like "Decisions Over Veal Orloff," featuring the aforementioned Action Bronson, where vintage horns and B-Movie dialogue are on the menu as Bronson (aka Bobby Baklava) coasts over what sounds like the perfect background music for the opening scene of an early '80s vigilante movie.