20 Best Alchemist Beats (2008-2013)
The Alchemist has been one of rap’s premiere beatmakers for over a decade now. The California native has produced songs for artists ranging from Group Home to Snoop Dogg, and anyone in between. And while ALC is known for his gutter contributions to Prodigy’s ‘H.N.I.C.’ and for his substantial catalog with Dilated Peoples, he has been on a prolific tear in the last five years.
Alchemist’s always been known for his obscure sampling and his gritty sound, but in recent times, he has become known furthermore for his minimalist style, oftentimes not adding drums to the track. And while some have complained that this technique is lazy and that the beats do not hit hard enough, the Alchemist refuses to drown the samples in his own modifications, allowing the rappers he works with to ride the lush textures of the beat itself.
In the last year alone, he has produced complete projects with Willie The Kid (‘Masterpiece Theatre EP’), Prodigy (‘Albert Einstein’), Durag Dynasty (‘360 Waves’), and Action Bronson (‘Rare Chandeliers’). All of this leads up to his upcoming Step Brothers album with frequent collaborator, Evidence. While we wait on that project and his upcoming collaboration with Boldy James, here is a ranking of the 20 best Alchemist beats in the last five years.
‘360 Waves’ – Durag Dynasty
Because of the absence of added drums, the beat never actually “drops” the way most do. Instead, the sample loops throughout the song, forcing the emcees to jump on as if trying to board a moving bus. The airy beat fits the gritty vocals of the West Coast rap trio, and is one of the standout instrumentals on the entirely Alchemist-produced ‘360 Waves’ album from the group.
‘Trap Door’ – Joey Bada$$
Joey Bada$$ is the unofficial leader of the Beast Coast movement and the purveyor of the revivalist boom-bap sound in modern hip-hop. Joey has proven that while he is an extremely talented lyricist, he handles certain types of beats better than others, and this plodding head nodder is right down his alley. This track is perfect for cruising. “Drive slow, homie” indeed. Alchemist caps it off by sampling a scene from Don’t Be a Menace for the song’s intro.
‘Medusa’ – Willie The Kid (Feat. Roc Marciano & Action Bronson)
Willie The Kid is a rapper’s rapper. Just ask Drake about him. Linking up with Alchemist on a collaborative EP was certainly what the Michigan needed to revive his career, and ‘Medusa’ is certainly one of the standout songs.
This is Alchemist at his finest. Here he flips Zvika Pick’s ‘Love Has No Country,’ chopping up the vocals at various points and adding keys and horns throughout. Only one person would have ever thought of using a Hebrew pop singer’s voice for the focal point of a rap song.
‘Flash Gordon’ – Roc Marciano
Roc Marciano has rapped over the work of many producers, having jumped on guest appearance spots for a plethora of artists. But when it’s come to his own solo material, the Hempstead native has chosen to use his own instrumentals, methodically selecting the right samples for his stop-start flow that weaves through tracks like a motorcycle in a traffic jam.
But when The Alchemist comes knocking with a lo-fi gem that matches the aesthetic, not even Roc can turn it down. This is an incredibly simple loop, with little else added to it, but with the right vocal instrument thrown on top, the song becomes a cinematic masterpiece, a standout gem off ‘Reloaded.’
‘The Red Carpet’ – Evidence (Feat. Ras Kass & Raekwon)
Alchemist had several gems on Evidence’s ‘Cats And Dogs’ album, including the aforementioned but ‘The Red Carpet’ was his best work on the album. Here, Alchemist flips the Congress Alley’s ‘God Save America,’ and creates a working man’s anthem. In a different era (or perhaps for a different set of artists), this could have been a single contender for the rap charts.
‘Chain Swinging’ – Gangrene
From the Gangrene collection comes ‘Chain Swinging,’ a perfect example of both Alchemist’s unique sample selection and his ear for detail. This track starts with the sample of Jumbo’s ‘Il Ritorno del Signor K.’ But what makes the beat stick out is the drum pattern. As Oh No points out, “That’s just the sound of my chains swinging,” showing how enmeshed the beat is with the song’s concept itself. Genius.
‘The Symbol’ – Action Bronson
If a rap fan is not particularly familiar with ‘Rare Chandeliers,’ the collaborative project between Action Bronson and Alchemist, he or she is at least familiar with ‘The Symbol,’ thanks to its Pulp Fiction-esque zany music video. But the song’s guitar-based sample creates a Western ambiance and is the perfect platform from where Bronson can get to s–t-talking. If it wasn’t for the great producers Bam Bam has been blessed to work with, Alchemist included, he would not be “considered as a veteran” like he currently is.
‘Genesis of the Omega’ – Sean Price
This is the intro to Sean Price’s ‘Mic Tyson’ for a reason. It is a rugged boom-bap track with powerful synths and a thumping bassline. But this beat is actually a flip of a song from the progressive rock band Ananta, which had its roots in Venezuela and were heavily influenced by the Hare Krishna spiritual movement. What would make someone think of coming up with a beat so hard from something so peaceful? And could you imagine Sean Price performing a concert backed by the guys who came up with this album art?
‘Surgical Gloves’ – Raekwon
What made fans nervous about Raekwon’s ‘Only Built For Cuban Linx II’ before it came out was also what made it one of the better releases of 2009. Eschewing the original’s formula of using entirely RZA production, the sequel saw Raekwon reach out to other producers to come up with a sound that could fit right into the old aesthetic without sounding dated. The Alchemist only had one contribution to the project, but he made sure he stuck out, flipping Styx’s ‘Castle Walls’ to create a gritty soundscape ideal for the Chef’s street narratives.
‘Dough Pildin’ – Prodigy
The beat breaks down into several parts, the most notable being the distinctive, haunting moan of a female vocal sample. But this is sharply contrasted by the lush upbeat flute riffs that come in for the song’s hook. ‘Albert Einstein’ might be one of the most underrated releases of 2013, and its production is a big reason why, epitomized by ‘Dough Pildin.’
‘Choose Your Side’ – La Coka Nostra (Feat. Bun B)
Ever wanted to hear UGK’s Bun B get overtly political in his rhymes? Listen to this collaboration he did with stalwart underground collective La Coka Nostra on their first album, ‘A Brand You can Trust.’ While the verses are dope on their own accord, its the song’s instrumental that will blow you away. Alchemist borrows the flute riffs and rich melody of Bollywood singer Asha Bhosle’s ‘Mujhe Maar Daalo’ to create an irresistible headnodder. The best part? The title of the song he sampled literally means “kill me,” perfect for a track that talks about murder on all levels.
‘My Homie’ – Schoolboy Q
ScHoolboy Q starts the track off by gushing about getting his first Alchemist beat, fondly recollecting a time when he had purchased ‘First Infantry.’ He does the Clearlight-sampled instrumental justice, using it to narrate a tale of betrayed loyalty. “Money, weed, and b—hes,’ indeed.
‘Red Dot Music’ – Mac Miller (Feat. Action Bronson)
Several years ago, Alchemist working with Mac Miller would be looked at as a bizarre pairing. In 2013, Mac has stepped up his lyrical skills, and put together a sophomore album that sounded incredibly cohesive in ‘Watching Movies With The Sound Off.’ Matching up with other beatsmith’s on the album such as Clams Casino and Flying Lotus, Alchemist steps away from his signature gutter offerings to give Mac an airy instrumental for his weed-induced musings, sampling Camel’s ‘A Heart’s Desire’ to create audio gold.
‘Gladiators’ – B.o.B. (Feat. J. Cole)
On the same mixtape that gave us our first exposure to the crossover smash ‘Nothing On You,’ B.o.B. showcased his diversity by collaborating on this song with J. Cole. Alchemist provided the two emerging stars with the ideal beat to square off, equipped with layered synths, dizzying piano loops, and Southern-sounding drum patterns. With this one, Alchemist was able to prove that his sound could not be boxed into just one niche or region.
‘You Ain’t Got Nothin’ – Lil Wayne (Feat. Juelz Santana & Fabolous)
It is only right that one of the most prolific producers of the last five years got a placement on one of the most successful albums of that time span. Alchemist flipped the guitar riffs on Joan Armatrading’s ‘I’m Lucky’ to create a posse cut that all punchline enthusiasts could appreciate.
‘Scottie Pippen’ – Curren$y (Feat. Freddie Gibbs)
During Curren$y’s heyday of free releases, he put out a project entirely produced by Alchemist called ‘Covert Coup’ that many consider one of his best work to-date. ‘Scottie Pippen’ is a standout on the track, its mellow synths perfect for both the spaced-out delivery of Curren$y and the rapid fire flow of featured emcee Freddie Gibbs. Songs like this are released on 4/20 for a reason.
‘Elimination Chamber’ – Domo Genesis (Feat. Earl Sweatshirt, Vince Staples, & Action Bronson)
Before collaborating with The Alchemist, Domo Genesis was an afterthought to non-Odd Future fanatics. ‘Elimination Chamber’ was the first song release off their ‘No Idols’ project, and while it features three other stars-in-the-making in Vince Staples, Earl Sweatshirt, and Action Bronson, Domo held his own here with the opening verse. While the veteran beatsmith might have had the least to prove, he shows off his prowess with an airy instrumental equipped with a recurring vocal sample and a synth loop.
‘B—h I Deserve You’ – Action Bronson (Feat. Evidence)
While Action Bronson is known for dropping brief anecdotes about his life courtesy of the occasional stream-of-conscious one-liner in his verses, ‘B—h I Deserve You’ was a rare opportunity for the Queens native to really open up, personifying the rap game and talking about his desire to succeed in it.
Credit the Alchemist for providing Bam Bam the outlet to go this deep, as he sampled the lush keys and vocals of Mildred Clark and the Melody Aires’ ‘If I Had One More Chance’ to create a somber instrumental for the ages. Sure, Evidence’s guest verse on this song might have stolen the show towards the end, but the beat is the star of this show, making it the highlight of ‘Rare Chandeliers.’
‘Lullaby’ – Fabolous
Alchemist brought Fabolous back to the streets of Brooklyn for this album cut off ‘Loso’s Way.’ Co-produced by Just Blaze, the song’s brooding synths offer Fab the opportunity to reclaim the crown as “Punchline King.” Only The Alchemist could make a vocal sample of “rockabye baby” sound so sinister.
‘Death Wish’ – Jadakiss (Feat. Lil Wayne)
The best Alchemist beat of the last five years barely made the final cut on Jadakiss’ last album, ‘The Last Kiss,’ having leaked prematurely. It lives as a bonus song on the album. But there is no denying the ominous aura the Alchemist creates with this beat, which is truly befitting of the track’s title. The instrumental’s whirring synths are spine-tingling, creating the perfect canvas for Jada to paint the depraved imagery of his city and for Weezy to go left-field, as he is apt to do. Other songs might have had a larger impact, but ‘Death Wish’ literally gives you the chills.