REVOLT TV presents ‘The Produce Section,’ a column where we put the spotlight on the men and women behind the beats we love so much and their contributions to the culture as a whole. From profiling and interviewing the hottest producers of today, to acknowledging the greatest producers of all time and delving deep into their discographies, ‘The Produce Section’ is the hub where beats, rhymes and life connect.
Producers have long been the backbone of rap music, providing emcees and rappers alike with the sonic backdrops over which they bare their souls and share their stories. Rap artists may get much of the fanfare and are front and center. However, without the producer toiling away behind the scenes, crafting the instrumentals, the lyrics would be reduced to spoken word and hip hop would be nonexistent as we know it.
With the passage of time, the producer has become more ubiquitous than ever with the most successful boardsmen rivaling many of the artists they work with in terms of visibility and popularity. However, in many cases, the producer fails to get their just due or recognition for the vital role they play in helping keeping hip hop alive.
With over two decades in hip hop under his belt, The Alchemist is widely recognized as one of the greatest producers of his generation. Initially an aspiring rapper and member of the rap collective The Soul Asassins, The Alchemist eventually focused his ambitions on becoming a producer. This earned him his earliest credits on releases from Dilated Peoples and Defari. However, The Alchemist’s profile would rise exponentially in rap circles during the late 1990s and early aughts, as the boardsman scored tracks for many of the most legendary artists of all time; including Mobb Deep, Big Pun, Ghostface Killah, Nas, Fat Joe, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg and more.
Although regarded as one of the last purveyors of boom-bap and sample-based production — which has stifled other producers’ ability to evolve with the times — The Alchemist has yet to lose a step. He’s lent his murky, vintage sound to younger acts like Kendrick Lamar, Action Bronson, Schoolboy Q, Earl Sweatshirt, and others over the course of the past decade, which helped keep his reputation as one of the illest to ever do it.
In our latest installment of “The Produce Section,” where we highlight classic beats from our favorite producers, we celebrate The Alchemist’s illustrious career and highlight 13 of his most iconic beats that define his excellence behind the boards.
1. “Bring It On”
The first beat placement to truly put The Alchemist on the radar of production fanatics was “Bring It On,” which was his contribution to Terror Squad’s 1999 debut album. Procuring the opening riffs from Arik Einstein and Miki Gavrielov 1980 composition, “Arik Einstein’s היא יושבה לחלון (She Sits by the Window),” and speeding up the tempo to incorporate thumping percussion on the track, The Alchemist scored his first classic instrumental, which helped kick the producer’s career into overdrive.
2.” The Realest”
The Alchemist’s longstanding affiliation with Mobb Deep began in 1999 when the rising boardsman scored a pair of production credits on Prodigy and Havoc’s fourth studio album, Murda Muzik. One of those songs was “The Realest.” It features a guest appearance from Kool G Rap, includes a sped-up sample disco band Ecstasy, Passion & Pain’s 1974 cut “Born to Lose You.” On it, the three Queens reps lay down murderous rhyme spills about living on the trife side of life.
3. “Keep It Thoro”
In 2000, when Prodigy embarked on a solo career with the release of his debut album, H.N.I.C., the crime rhyme enthusiast sought out The Alchemist’s talents once again. The producer hooked up the backdrop for the album’s lead single “Keep It Thoro.” Built around a sample of Jack Mayborn’s 1978 release “Disco People,” as well as a vocal sample from “There You Are” by Millie Jackson, “Keep It Thoro” was hailed as one of the hardest singles of the year and remains one of the most beloved tracks out of The Alchemist’s never-ending stash of beats.
4. “Bang Bang”
Further entrenching himself as the go-to boardsman for Queens rappers in search of a little bit of hardcore, The Alchemist teamed up with Capone-N-Noreaga in 2000 for “Bang Bang,” a selection from the duo’s sophomore album, The Reunion. Notorious for Foxy Brown’s scathing verse dissing rival Lil Kim, “Bang Bang” played a part in sparking the infamous shootout between members of Capone-N-Noreaga and Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s entourages outside of New York‘s Hot 97 radio station in 2001. However, despite the controversy surrounding the song, “Bang Bang,” which includes a sample of Anthony Phillips’ “Abstract Atmospheric,” is one of The Alchemist’s finest compositions to date.
5. “We Gonna Make It”
When Jadakiss barked “fuck the frail shit” at the beginning of his 2001 single “We Gonna Make It,” the raspy one put rap listeners on notice that they were in for something special. And that was certainly the case by all accounts, as Jada and The LOX groupmate Styles P traded bars over production by The Alchemist, who does work with a sample of “My Music” by Samuel Jonathan Johnson to create one of the signature beats in his catalog. Originally intended to appear on Ras Kass’ shelved album Van Gough as the track “Home Sweet Home,” due to miscommunication between Alchemist and Ras Kass’ label at the time, Priority Records, The Alchemist ultimately passed the beat on to Jadakiss and the rest is history.
6. “The Forest”
The Alchemist entered the chamber of the Wu in 2001, earning a production credit on Ghostface Killah’s third studio album, Bulletproof Wallets. Crafting the instrumental to the conceptual album cut “The Forest,” Alchemist cooks up using a sped-up sample of The Imaginations’ 1974 song “Battle of Matheia.” This gave Killah the perfect backdrop to spit musings about fictional cartoon characters running rampant and creating havoc throughout his fictional forest.
7. “A Gangster and a Gentleman”
Following his work on Jadakiss’ solo album the previous year, The Alchemist supplied The LOX member Styles P with the instrumental for “A Gangster and a Gentleman,” the title-track from his own solo in 2002. Sampling various elements of “Legend & Light” by Swedish musician and instrumentalist Bo Hanson for “A Gangster and a Gentleman,” The Alchemist scores one of the more regal soundscapes of his career.
8. “Revolutionary Warfare”
In 2002, The Alchemist worked with yet another Queens rep, this time by contributing to Nas’ sixth studio album, God’s Son. Producing “Revolutionary Warfare,” The Alchemist lifted a sample from Black Ivory’s 1973 release “We Made It,” reworking the original with new drums. This resulted in an unsung gem in the beatsmith’s catalog.
9. “No Idea’s Original”
Prior to his teaming up with Nas on God’s Son, The Alchemist and Esco linked up for “No Idea’s Original,” a song that was originally intended for the rapper’s Stillmatic album. But, it was ultimately left on the cutting-room floor. Revamping the backdrop for The Cecil Homes Soulful Sounds’ 1973 release, “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby,” The Alchemist blessed Nas with an instrumental that inspired one of the lyricists greatest lyrical onslaughts.
10. “Hold You Down”
Just Blaze and JAY-Z may have beat them to the punch with their 2000 collaboration, “Soon You’ll Understand.” But, it can be argued that The Alchemist, Prodigy, Nina Sky and Illa Ghee may have upped the ante with their flip of Al Kooper’s classic 1970 ballad “Love Theme From ‘The Landlord.’” Instead of merely speeding up the vocals and altering their pitch, The Alchemist gets his chef on with “Hold You Down,” chopping up the sample into bits and pieces, and pairing them with guitar riffs and additional vocal samples. These all comprise this infectious soundscape.
11. “Wet Wipes”
Earth & Fire’s (not to be confused with the legendary R&B band Earth, Wind & Fire) 1972 single “Memories” was pilfered by The Alchemist in 2006 for Cam’ron‘s Killa Season cut “Wet Wipes.” Chopping up the frontend of the rock band’s original recording, The Alchemist cooked up a heater in his first ever collaboration with Harlem’s favorite Diplomat.
12. “Stuck To You”
For Prodigy’s 2007 album, Return of the Mac, the Alchemist rode shotgun throughout the joint project, producing the entirety of the album in what was the first collaborative album of his career. While tracks like “Mac 10 Handle” and other releases created fanfare, one song from the album that struck a chord with rap enthusiasts was “Stuck on You.” This was a track that sampled Jeannie Reynolds’ vocals from her 1977 hit “I’m Hooked on You.” The song solidified Prodigy and Alchemist’s standing as one of the premier rapper/producer combos of the aughts.
13. “Young Veterans”
In 2008, The Alchemist reunited with Prodigy yet again on H.N.I.C. 2, the sequel to his solo debut, for a grisly composition that is nothing less than bone-chilling. Sampling a guitar and drum solo from rockers Step Ahead’s 1982 jam “Right or Wrong,” The Alchemist supplies his most frequent collaborator with a banger that is indicative of not only the producer’s skill behind the boards, but him and Prodigy’s undeniable chemistry.
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