We here at nappyafro are a family and when I got word that my bro KAJ wouldn’t be able to get the album review in for The Alchemist’s Chemical Warfare album, I didn’t mind stepping in and supporting my fam (that’s what we do!). This was one of the most recent albums that I was anticipating its release and sure enough on July 7 I picked up my copy. With it being five years since Alchemist’s debut release 1st Infantry back in 2004, many wonder with this album if he could continue the success that he saw on his first album. Let’s see how The Alchemist fares this time around on his second war-themed album.
1. Intro Produced by The Alchemist
With a dark piano driven beat, Alchemist uses this quick introduction track to let the listeners know exactly what they are about to hear with this album. Various news audio clips play throughout this track with the album title/theme mentioned, which further sets the tone for the rest of the songs to follow.
2. ALC Theme Featuring Kool G Rap; Produced by The Alchemist
Alchemist opens the album with his theme song if you will, which features Hip-Hop legend Kool G Rap trading bars with him over a synth heavy pounding beat that has listeners traveling back to Alc in his earlier days behind the boards. While he’s definitely not one of the best producers behind the mic, Alchemist holds his own and allows G Rap to shine with his braggadocio gutter verse.
3. Lose Your Life Featuring Snoop Dogg, Jadakiss & Pusha T; Produced by The Alchemist
If you’re a fan of Alchemist and follow his music then you should be familiar with this track as it was previously featured on Alchemist’s EP The Alchemist’s Cookbook along with an interesting accompanying music video for it (check it out if you haven’t already). It’s with good understanding why Alchemist decided to include this track on the album as well as he produces dark and mysterious sounding beat for Jada and Pusha to deliver stellar verses on. Snoop provides the chorus only on this beat and leaves room for the other two emcees to shine as they do with lines like: (Jadakiss) “Twenty little missiles in the clip of the five-seven/I’m like navigation if you tryin’ to find heaven… (Pusha T) “Billie Jean step over the track ‘til it’s glowin’/You’re thinking I’m the O-N/E, metaphors are no win/Avalanche P push powder ‘til you’re snowed in, no end”. This proves to be one of the best tracks on the album (despite the unnecessary skits at the end of songs throughout the album…artists need to stop including these on albums, PLEASE!)
4. Chemical Warfare Featuring Eminem; Produced by The Alchemist
I remember when I heard about this track being featured on this album and everybody was really excited to hear an Eminem collaboration track with Alchemist, but the expectations proved to be too high after listening to it. Alchemist produces a slow tempo beat that suits Em’s style as he delivers his trademark rhymes over various things from Sarah Palin to the Octomom to the Jonas Brothers before abruptly ending his verse asking if he rhymed Octomom twice in the same rap (yeah you did Em…what’s going on Marshall??). Like I said, this song/collaboration was highly anticipating but fails to deliver the superior results that everyone was expecting to hear (better luck next time).
5. Grand Concourse Benches Featuring KRS-One; Produced by The Alchemist
Of course you know Alchemist had to stay true to his underground roots and bring the only and one KRS-One aboard to satisfy the real Hip-Hop heads. Alchemist produces a bouncy piano beat for KRS-One to deliver rhymes and drop knowledge as only he knows how. The only thing that I’m really not feeling about this track is the chorus that KRS provides, but other than that it’s a pretty solid track overall. The skit that follows this track that features the backpackers and the street cats giving their respective thoughts about Alchemist’s beats and production comes off funny compared to the other unnecessary skits on the album.
6. Therapy Featuring Evidence, Blu, Talib Kweli & Kid Cudi; Produced by The Alchemist
This track happens to be one of the other tracks that were previously heard on Alchemist’s EP The Alchemist’s Cookbook and it fits in nicely with the rest of the tracks on the album. Properly titled, the relaxing beat produced by Alc provides therapy to the listeners’ ears as stated in the chorus provided by Kid Cudi (didn’t see that feature coming on an Alchemist album). Evidence, Blu, and Talib each deliver some nice rhymes that fit comfortably over Alchemist’s beat.
7. That’ll Work Featuring Three 6 Mafia & Juvenile; Produced by The Alchemist
When a lot of people saw this track they probably thought their eyes were playing tricks on them but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a bad track because of The Alchemist’s pairing with Three 6 Mafia and Juvenile because you’d be very wrong. Alchemist isn’t known for producing Southern style beat as it contrasts his New York sounding production, but Alc shows that he’s diverse behind the boards. Three 6 Mafia sound at home on this track as the beat seems catered to their style and sound, but it’s Juve who goes in lyrically on this track (hopefully some new Juve is in the works…it’s been 3 years long enough since Reality Check). If anyone was doubting Alchemist’s skills as a producer before this track thinking that he couldn’t fit with the South, this is their wake up call (the snooze button is broke!).
8. Smile Featuring Maxwell & Twista; Produced by The Alchemist
This track was the first single for the album with a great music video to go along with it. Alchemist produces a very uplifting beat that allows him to talk about his ups and downs and being able to smile throughout the hardships. Twista joins Alc on the track along with unexpected collaborator Maxwell who takes the track to the next level. Maxwell’s vocals fit nicely over Alchemist’s beat and Twista takes it back to his Tung Twista days during his verse as he displays to the listeners why he was once listed as the fastest emcee in the Guinness Book of World Records. Alchemist couldn’t go wrong in selecting this track as a single for the album and showing how easily he can switch his style up to match any artists’ style.
9. Keep The Heels On Featuring Prodigy; Produced by The Alchemist
Definitely not your usual ladies track but it is coming from Alchemist and Prodigy (what you though Alc was coming with some soft shit??). Prodigy gets busy (no pun intended) on this menacing Alchemist produced track telling you about how he wants his chick to keep her heels on while it’s goin’ down. There’s not really much else to this track other than what’s expected and the pairing of Alchemist and Prodigy fits so well as usual (read: Return Of The Mac).
10. Acts Of Violence Featuring Gangrene (Oh No & Alchemist); Produced by The Alchemist
The group known as Gangrene (Alchemist and Madlib’s younger brother Oh No) gives you an example of what you can expect to hear on their collaborative album. From the sounds of this track there is some good music to be heard when that album is released. Alchemist produces a hard-hitting beat that sees him and Oh No spittin’ lyrical bars with ease at the same time displaying their collective chemistry.
11. Lights, Camera Action Featuring Lil’ Fame; Produced by The Alchemist
When you saw Lil’ Fame of M.O.P. featured on the track you should have already know what to expect and it’s nothing less than expected (other than the track being too short). Alchemist provides Fame with a suitable hard-hitting beat that fits his style with ease as he delivers the trademark lyrics you’re used to hearing from him. As I said the only problem with this track is that it’s too short at only 1:40 and it heads to the next track right as you’re getting into it.
12. Some Gangster Shit Featuring Fabolous; Produced by The Alchemist
Unfortunately this track falls victim to the same fate as the previous track in being too short for such a great track. Alchemist’s sinister production on this track is a great fit for Fabolous to drop some “gangster shit” in this metaphoric verse with lines like: “Maybe I should just press charges for swagger theft/You faggots deaf if you can’t hear I’m hot as dragon’s breath/Naw I’m past hot, I’m the sun’s mascot/With stacks on deck I’m at yo neck like an ascot”. This track sounds like one that should have been included on Fabolous’ Loso’s Way album as it fits the tone and feel of what he was going for with it. This is one track on the album that needed to be longer than the 2:00 it was.
13. On Sight Featuring Dogg Pound & Lady of Rage; Produced by The Alchemist
Just as he showed you on his track for the South, Alchemist shows some love to his hometown on the left coast with this West Coast feature. The beat produced by Alchemist with its synths sounds a bit generic and average for a producer of his skill level while the Dogg Pound and Lady of Rage deliver quality verses on the mic. Despite some good verses from the guests featured, this track comes off sounding average compared to some of the other stellar tracks on the album.
14. Take A Look Back Produced by The Alchemist
This track serves as Alchemist’s lone track on the album where he takes time to reflect his life in his lyrics and talk about all of the things that he had to go through to become the respected music producer that he is today. Listening to this track along with watching the recent YouTube video of Alchemist producing beats during his college years make you really see how far Alchemist has come as a producer from his early days with The Soul Assassins and Dilated Peoples.
15. Under Siege Produced by Oh No
Alchemist ends of the album with another preview of what’s to come from the pairing of Alc and Oh No as Gangrene with Oh No providing the production this time around. He doesn’t disappoint with the production either as he produces a bumping guitar driven beat that he and Alchemist get lyrical over. Oh No drops a nice verse but surprisingly Alc does him one better with lyrics like: “On some Steven Segal shit, salmonella chicken I’m kickin’ that raw shit/For practice, so when you snack on this you get nauseous” (damn Alc!). That Gangrene album is sounding better and better just from their two tracks together on this album.
So what’s the verdict after 15 tracks from The Alchemist…a very solid album! Not to be outdone by his great debut album 1st Infantry, Alchemist delivers some memorable tracks like “Smile” and “Lose Your Life” as well as some strong cuts like “Some Gangster Shit” and “Therapy” (“Keys To The City” should have been included on this album). But at the same time there are some tracks on this album like “Chemical Warfare” and “On Sight” that hold it back from being a stronger album. There are plenty of good tracks to be heard on this album and the listening experience proves to be an enjoyable one especially if you’re a fan of Alchemist and his work. Listening to Alchemist’s production style over the course five years you can tell the change as he displays more experimental/synth heavy beats than the soulful sounding ones that were once heard from him. In the end this album doesn’t see better results than 1st Infantry, which had so many great songs (“Hold You Down”, “Dead Bodies”, “Essence”, “Tick Tock”), but it does show Alchemist’s growth and progress in the five years since. In the time since then Alchemist has become one of the best producers in Hip-Hop and the go to guy behind the boards for some of your favorite artists like Lil’ Wayne, Fabolous, Slaughterhouse, Jadakiss and more. With the hard work and dedication that Alchemist has been putting in for years it’s a position that is well earned and well deserved. If you’ve been a fan of Alchemist you won’t be disappointed with this album and if you’re not take a listen and realize that he’s probably been one of your favorite producers for a while now.
nappyPicks: “Lose Your Life”, “Therapy”, “Smile”, “Some Gangster Shit”, “That’ll Work”, “Acts Of Violence”, “Take A Look Back”, “Under Siege”