The Alchemist’s latest release, Russian Roulette, has dropped to serious critical acclaim. Featured as one of Complex’s favorites of 2012 as well as one of HipHopDX’s Top 25 of the year, it is an intimidating cut from a sought-after producer. Making moves all year, the “ambitious” and “sorely underrated” Russian Roulette topped off a strong showing from The Alchemist who was recognized by HipHopDX as Producer of the Year and “one of the greatest Hip Hop producers of the last 15 years.” The record stands as a complete exploration of The Alchemist’s style and range that has attracted attention from fans beyond his hardcore base. The first single “Flight Confirmation” is a hypnotizing banger with a ton of vocal punch from featuring artists Danny Brown and Schoolboy Q. Jason Goldwatch provides the visuals with an unforgettable take on a viral video
In many ways, Alchemist is an anomaly. He was raised amidst affluence–a far cry from what one would think as the breeding ground for someone who would be come a card-carrying member of a skull smashing, bone tingling production troupe like the Soul Assassins; or a honorary member of a breathtakingly dismal rap clique like Mobb Deep.
As a child of Beverly Hills, Al hung out at the home of movie producer and Interscope Records founder Ted Fields. At fourteen, he formed a rap group, the Whooliganz, with his friend Scotty. That is, Scott Caan– of Ocean’s 11 fame and whose dad is the legendary actor James Caan. It seems that while other rap stars rhyme about Sonny Corleone, Alchemist is one of the few who can claim to have been hanging with The Godfather’s oldest son before he was old enough to have a learner’s permit.
Having cut his teeth as a producer with Cypress Hill on the west coast, and hooking up with DJ Premier on the east, Al quickly developed working relationships with the best of his era. “All of that would get me charged,” he remembers. “I thought, ‘I’m around the illest motherfuckers on the planet. I can’t go home and turn that into something, I’m nobody. I don’t deserve to be with these guys.’” But Al did deserve to be with them and his work ethic encouraged him into working with a broad array of talent.
“Sometimes I look at old jazz records it’s like Bob James hooked up with Earl Clue and they did a record in 19-whatever,” says Al. “You look on the back and it’s like ‘recorded in Stockholm from this month to that month.’ So these dudes that respected each other just went to some country and made a product. I don’t think some A&R hooked them up. Maybe they did, but in my mind, I like to think that they reached out because they respected each other.”
It’s an ethic that Al–who spends days recording, even serving as a rapper, producer and engineer for his own solo sessions–wants to bring forth to more of hip-hop. “If I see Mos Def, I’ma be like, ‘Let’s get in and just work. Let’s just work and figure out if it’s for your album or my album later,’” he shares. “‘I don’t care if you got a budget. I got a studio, you got rhymes, I got beats, let’s just work.’ I feel that with that type of energy, that when some good shit will come back. At least if it doesn’t come back, at least I did my part to do some dope shit.”