The Alchemist at Klinik/Sound Emporium (360 Adelaide West) as part of Doin' It, Saturday (April 10), doors 10 pm. $15 advance. 416-408-2646. Rating: NNNNN
The Alchemist is one of the reasons why hiphop is in a far better state in 2004 than you might think.
The beatsmith's distinctive sound has provided important sonic backdrops on must-hear records like Prodigy of Mobb Deep's Keep It Thoro, Nas's No Idea's Original and Ghostface Killah's The Forest. Beyond that, he co-executive produced Dilated Peoples' recent Neighborhood Watch.
But when we speak, he tells me his favourite thing about hiphop in 2004 is the upcoming June release of his LP 1st Infantry, a record that features Mobb Deep and their extended family, G-Unit, Southern artists Nappy Roots and Devin the Dude and a cornucopia of other rappers, including Alchemist himself.
"It feels good after all these years of making beats underneath people and being this unspoken secret producer on other albums."
It isn't just the big-shot, caviar-munching rap names he hooks up with tracks. He's produced tons of gems for veterans like Freddie Foxxx, Cormega, Big Noyd and Lil' Dap as well. From Big to Lil', Alchemist blesses them all.
"I'm not the type of producer who just creeps around the top crust of the industry, like 'Who's got the big cheques?' I don't chase a cheque when it comes to making music. I fuck with somebody because I know them on a personal level or I'm a fan of their stuff. So it spreads out a lot."
The West L.A. native got his start rapping as one-half of Cypress Hill-affiliated duo the Whooliganz, and garnered his production acumen from soaking up the knowledge of DJs Muggs and Lethal.
His influences include West Coast names like Dr. Dre, Tha Alkoholiks and J-Swift, but his style was more affected by East Coast producers like Large Professor and, of course, DJ Premier.
This kinship with the East Coast sound led to a strong working relationship with Mobb Deep that continues to this day. His work on the She Blinded Me With Science-sampling Got It Twisted was released as a single by the Mobb.
Alchemist says he came across the sample because he was just bugging out.
"P's code name is Science - he's real smart. They were at the crib one day, and I was thinking about how they flipped Quiet Storm on some 80s shit. There was a part on the record that I always liked, and I thought I could probably twist it up a little differently and let it at P."
Jay-Z's at the top of the Alchemist's list of artists he hopes to work with. His retirement seems to have deep-sixed that dream, so I mention that Kool Keith would be a great candidate to rhyme over Al's MC-friendly breaks, yet he deems it unlikely.
"I'm not even on his planet. But if he'll invite me over there, I'll go. Keith's always been dope."
He also wants to make it clear that you shouldn't go to the show expecting a Kid Koala or Grandmaster Flash level of scratchin' and mixin'.
"Basically, I'm not nice on the 1s and 2s. I'm not even thinking of rocking the party like a DJ would. It's gonna be more like a live mix tape. I'm gonna bring a bunch of stuff that's never been heard - uncut mixed shit and shit straight out the lab. A dose of some raw hiphop shit."
Speaking of hiphop, what does he think is the worst thing about hiphop now? His answer has more to do with politics and bullshit than rap. "The fuckin' elections, man. I feel it's inevitable that Bush will win. Everybody's getting fooled. At the end of the day, motherfuckers at the mercy of that bullshit."
At least our heads will be nodding as America plunges ass first into the apocalypse. email@example.com