Review Summary: Alchemist kicks his stripped down street sound for MC's to rip, and it's mostly good.
Alchemist’s butt must hurt, because for his entire he’s been sitting on fences. Between mainstream and commercial, between hardcore and soft, and never quite breaking through one way or the other. He started out as Mobb Deep’s in-house producer and moved all the way up to being Eminem’s DJ, but still never managed to push his way out of the box of fame that he lived in during the extent of his career. In 2004, Alc somehow managed to produce a charting single in the form of “Hold You Down”, and got enough support to record an effort with a couple of artists that he’s produced for that owe him back, and recorded 1st Infantry
, an album that sounds more like a mixtape in its off-the-cuff nature, but still manages to sound thoroughly cohesive.
strength is in it’s cohesive sound, due to Alchemist’s production chops. On his debut, Alchemist is caught mixing his penchant chipmunk soul-samples with an ominous, brooding atmosphere perfect for gritty mixtape raps to occur. Alc’s beats sound like a modern-iized version of the influential Mobb Deep debut The Infamous
, benefitting from Alchemist’s musical experience with Mobb Deep. Particularly, he shines when these pure street rappers try their hand in rapping on tracks, like the inclosing haunted house organs of Mobb Deep and The LOX’s “D-Block to QB”, the Spaghetti Western-undertones of Lloyd Bank’s “Bangers, or the rattling keys of The Game and Prodigy’s “Dead Bodies”.
The rapping is what makes 1st Infantry
not the classic it aims to be. Jadakiss, Styles P, and Sheek Louch continue to spit their street politics on “The Essence” and “D-Block to QB”, Stat Quo sounds oddly alert on the lively “Stop The Show”, Devin The Dude’s women tales “Where Can We Go” are full entertaining, and Lloyd Bank shows his true colors as a decent punchline MC on his own “Bangers, but the rest of the MC’s sound uninspired or were just bad in the first place. Prodigy’s woozy, pain-drenched threats sound pathetic, and most of the other MC’s sound just as generic on their performances. But that’s where the album’s cohesive sound comes back into play, because these street tales, as uninspired as they can be, mixes well with Alchemist’s full sound, and creates a dark, thug atmosphere perfect for this type of music.
For a white kid, Alchemist certainly knows how to create a street record! 1st Infantry
has a couple of completely stand-out weird tracks that sound out-of place like Chinky’s solo whine R&b track “Strength and Pain” and T.I’s poor weed carrier P$C track “Pimp Squad”, but it’s smooth going nonetheless. 1st Infantry
is a good first effort from Alchemist, and shows a lot of promise from one of hip hop’s better beat smiths.