Micro-Chopping The Alchemist: An Exclusive 40-Track Playlist
Not every producer is fortunate enough to have a talented mentor to show them the ropes when the first start out. Alchemist was lucky enough to have several. After starting his career as part of The Whooliganz in 1991, Alchemist cut his teeth observing and working with Funkdoobiest, Cypress Hill, and House of Pain as part of the production team the Soul Assassins. In addition to studying under DJ Muggs, Alchemist also learned the ropes from DJ Lethal (House of Pain), Ralph M (Funkdoobiest), and T-Ray, a producer who worked closely with the Soul Assassins.
Alchemist has since gone on to produce for Action Bronson, Mobb Deep, Westside Gunn, Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Dilated Peoples, and countless others. Despite working with some of the industry’s biggest names, his favorite experience continues to be collaborating with close friends. “I like making beats for my closest of friends — like Dilated Peoples and people like that,” he told the website RiotSound in 2016. “That’s what’s most fulfilling; it’s not even a job, we were doing this before we were getting paid. We’re getting paid now and it just really makes no difference.”
Though Alchemist has built friendships and relationships with countless artists over the years, the process hasn’t always been easy. Despite the fact that he became a go-to producer for Mobb Deep — both as a group and for Havoc and P’s later solo albums — he was slow to earn their trust at first. “It took time [to build a relationship with Mobb Deep],” he told Complex in a 2012 interview. “They’re not the type of crew who would take to new people, I saw that right away.”
“The snare you hear doesn’t exist.” — Evidence
Despite their resistance to letting him into their inner circle at first, an opportunity to work with the group presented itself after Alchemist returned from a tour with Freddie Foxxx, Cypress Hill, M.O.P. Gang Starr, in 1999. According the interview with Complex, the late Prodigy called Alchemist after he’d gone to sleep and asked him to stop by Soundtrack Studios in New York City to play Mobb Deep some beats. Alchemist wasted no time making his way to the session. “I literally threw my ASR in the fucking case and got a cab and went to the studio and when I got there, G Rap was sitting there,” Alchemist recalled in the Complex interview.
This particular session would lead to “The Realest”, perhaps the best track on the entire Murda Muzik album. With the song still an enduring favorite for Mobb Deep fans many years later, Alchemist recently took to Twitter to reveal a fascinating fact about its inception. “Mobb Deep ‘The Realest’ was a straight 2 bar loop,” he said. “No drums. Enjoy your day.”
The tweet went viral, causing people like Defari, Evidence, and Green Lantern to join in the discussion. “The snare you hear doesn’t exist,” Evidence responded, reaffirming that any drum sounds heard in the song comes from the original sample. In another interesting reveal, Alchemist also said that the beat was originally intended as an interlude for Defari’s Focused Daily album.
“Mobb Deep ‘The Realest’ was a straight 2 bar loop. No drums. Enjoy your day.” — The Alchemist
Regardless of simplicity in structure or original intended use, Mobb Deep wanted the beat so it ended up on their album. And once Kool G Rap heard it over the monitors, he wrote his verse in a mere 45 minutes. “The minute he heard the beat he was just gone like, ‘Lemme go in,’” Alchemist told Complex. “He laid that shit down. Everybody was just astounded.”
Nearly two decades after “The Realest” and Murda Muzik hit stores, Alchemist is more active than ever — releasing four instrumental albums in the last two years, earning endless production credits on the albums of many well-respected MCs, and participating in a slew of collaborative efforts such as Gangrene with Oh No and Step Brothers with Evidence.
In a tribute to his astounding body of work, here is a 40-track Spotify playlist of choice Alchemist cuts. There are certainly more than enough songs to justify several other 40-track playlists in the future.