Review : The Alchemist - Chemical Warfare
PitchforkThe Alchemist's second solo record, a follow-up to the equally rock-solid 1st Infantry, is future-horror music, a cinematic soundtrack that crosses sci-fi pastiche with hardheaded ignorance of underground street rap. It's not an entirely novel concept-- the lead-off track sampling the theme from A Clockwork Orange makes that much obvious-- but it's exceptionally well-crafted in a way that eludes many of the artists who've fucked with this formula in the past. It helps that the Alchemist plays well to a lengthy guestlist of rappers with heavyweight street gravitas. As a rapper, Alc is still a pretty ignorable presence who can pull off some tracks as long as his lyrical honesty makes up for his poor vocal impression. But what makes this record work is Alchemist's balanced blend of creativity, craft, and atmosphere, a real underground rap record that works best when it plays to its strengths.
The beats are, of course, the main attraction. The claustrophobia, a mood so common to underground hardcore, is less about the dusty breakbeats of New York rap history; Alc's instrumentation is modern, smooth, and crisp, haunting less with texture than by strangled melody and the interplay of percussive beats with raspier rappers. "Lose Your Life", for example, is all swooping strings racing around bells that seem like the soundtrack to Dracula's mansion over minimal drum snaps. "That'll Work", meanwhile, is one of the year's best hip-hop tracks; over a bleeping sheet of computer sound, Juvenile and Three 6 Mafia spit inspired verses, accompanied by sudden jittery 16th-note bass stabs. The hook's eerie vocal samples are scratched less as a signifier of rap tradition than as disquieting affect. "On Sight" is another highlight; the Dogg Pound rap with classic West Coast lyrical dexterity over ominous bass burps and stuttered snares....full text
AllhiphopIt’s been five years since his last solo effort, 1st Infantry, but on Chemical Warfare, Alchemist---Eminem’s tour DJ and Prodigy’s go-to-beatsmith---doesn’t disappoint his eager fans.
As always, Al flips both exotic and noteworthy samples to accompany his signature sound---sinister melodies over thumping drums. A good selection of artists from Memphis to Brooklyn laces the album with grit. Jadakiss and Pusha T spit life-threatening bars on “Lose Your Life” over a bouncy piano-loop perfectly matching Snoop Dogg’s menacing hook.
The haunting sound continues “On Sight” featuring Tha Dogg Pound and Lady of Rage, a song that could be a theme for a drive-by. The vibe picks up as Three Six Mafia and Juvenile excel on the fast paced “That’ll Work,” while KRS-One yet again preaches and teaches on string-laced “Grand Concourse Benches.”...full text
ThemessageblogWhere the likes of Marley Marl and the Bomb Squad made the '80s sound, and Premo, the RZA and Pete Rock defined the '90s, it seems as if California's the Alchemist is one of this current generation's most iconoclastic producers. He's been fortunate enough to be featured as the musical backdrop for everyone from Mobb Deep to Dilated Peoples. But Al isn't content with being one of the top go-to producers of the decade. His latest solo LP Chemical Warfare finds Al trying to take production to heights previously unreached. Yet despite the impressiveness of its diverse guest list and sound, Chemical Warfare falls inches short of being something truly great.
Lyrically, the album overall top-notch. Al pulls in an impressive line-up of emcees to flesh out his beats. Of course, there are a lot of familiar faces on the album, including Jadakiss (who steals the show with his guest verse of "Lose your Life"), Lil' Fame, Evidence and Fabolous. But Al one-dups his previous release 1st Infantry in respects to the breadth of emcees he's enlisted for Warfare. He seemingly brings together emcees all walks of Hip-Hop life, from golden era greats like KRS-One and Kool G Rap, to up-and-comers Crooked I, Blu and Kid Cudi, to even down south ballers like Three 6 Mafia and Juvenile. For the most part, the Alchemist manages to get the best from his emcees. From Crooked I's Slaughterhouse-ready verse on "Acts of Violence" to Twista's spit-fire verbiage on the single "Smile," most everybody's on their A-game. Alc even takes controls the mic with a greater confidence. He handles his solo song "Take A Look Back" with an unprecedented level of self-reflection, and his dynamic with Oh No on songs "Acts of Violence" and "Under Siege" is a promising sign for their upcoming collaborative project Gangrene....full text
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