Be sure to check out our Super Tecmo Bo review here!
One of the greatest hiphop producers of all time, The Alchemist needs no introduction. With an already deep catalog of classics dating back to the late nineties, he only continues to solidify this status through consistent and high quality drops. In recent years, he has leaned heavily into the NY underground as an essential figure in the resurgence of gritty, often drumless boombap. 2021 has been typically busy for Uncle Al, so let’s take a look at some of his best work.
Armand Hammer – Haram
Continuing Alchemist’s habit of high quality, album length collaborations, Haram is one of the best albums of the year. Teaming with dark, esoteric lyricists Billy Woods and Elucid (past placement with Woods “Giraffe Hunts” is an essential listen), this is easily their best project as a duo. Lacing them with mysteriously beautiful production ranging from exotic to nightmarish, they get highly contemplative through deep allusions and symbolism.
Conway the Machine – 200 Pies (feat. 2 Chainz)
Hands down one of the best beats of the year, “200 Pies” is another strong pairing of Al and Griselda’s own Conway the Machine (linking frequently in the past and for 2020’s strong Lulu EP). Over a luxurious vocal sample and otherwise sparse instrumentation, 2 Chainz also leaves us wanting more from him with this sound.
This Thing of Ours (1 & 2)
The Alchemist also dropped two solo EPs this year which were highly complimentary and featured a strong variety of MC’s. With contributions from members of the Slums scene, to a Bruiser Brigade posse cut, and bigger names like Earl Sweatshirt or Vince Staples, these projects are a a very enjoyable little listen. Production ranges from grand and reminiscent of a mafioso scene, to some more lofi gutter sounds.
Pink Siifu – Living Proof (Family)
While generally a tribute to the sounds of the South, Pink Siifu’s Gumbo does feature this standout Alchemist beat. It sounds warm and nostalgic, complimenting the theme’s of the song well. Siifu also has a strong showing on This Thing of Ours.
Boldy James – Bo Jackson LP / Super Tecmo Bo
Yet another phenomenal collaboration from the prolific duo, these projects are among their best work together. They never replicate their past successes, leading to lots of variety and growth. While Bo Jackson is higher energy with lots of mean, memorable hooks and dark beats, Super Tecmo Bo is more understated and meditative.
AZ – Ritual (feat. Lil Wayne & Conway the Machine)
On the long awaited sequel to AZ’s classic Doe or Die, The Alchemist brings it’s standout cut. While Al has been more associated with the younger generation and the NY underground in recent years, he links here with a legend once again. AZ also adapts well to this scene (almost akin to Lloyd Banks and Jim Jones’ recent resurgences). Lil Wayne and Conway also deliver killer verses over this old school sounding beat with such distinct drums. It is all highly reminiscent of Al’s earlier work with Prodigy.
So what’s next for The Alchemist? He is sure to continue his prolific run in 2022 and there are so many MC’s we would love to see him collab with. His next album with Curren$y, Half Moon Bay, has been briefly delayed but the snippet sounded phenomenal. Al does have a placement on the new Earl Sweatshirt album as well, and Vince Staples has lots of material recorded with him. The long awaited Roc Marciano collab has been getting teased heavily and feels closer than ever, while Benny the Butcher’s Tana Talk 4 and Conway’s God Don’t Make Mistakes will feature him heavily. No matter what, we are sure to get plenty more high quality music from The Alchemist in the near future.
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