Beat Drop: Alchemist.

If the city of Beverly Hills, California has ever been mentioned following the phrase “the mean streets of,” then it’d likely in reference to the attitude of women there. Having worked in and around the area for several years, the only time I’ve ever crossed paths with a rapper is if they’re shopping or visiting their lawyer. Yet Al “Alchemist” Maman emerged from the area, after a failed rap career along side Scott Caan (son of James Caan, who played Sonny Corleone in The Godfather), to become one of hip hop’s most sought-after producers in recent memory, especially amongst the realms of gangsta rap (or whatever’s left of it). A true craftsmen, his discography presents a wide range of MCs — backpackers to gun busters, underground to overground, L.A. to N.Y., flipping beats that are rugged and dusty, or clean and smooth.

What follows is the first in a series of weekly (or, however often we can get around to it) posts here at ML, showcasing 10 of the best beats — 5 picked by the maestro Lethal, 5 by yours truly — from some of the most highly-touted producers in hip hop. Speaking on behalf of myself here, I like to think I listen to a good amount of hip hop, but I haven’t heard everything that’s out there; Alchemist may have sold the greatest beat ever made to MC Get Busy, and I wouldn’t know (in part because MC Get Busy doesn’t actually exist). So enjoy the list and links, and of course, feel free to throw your two cents into the discussion — the “Comments” section is your friend.

Lethal’s Picks

Download: Terror Squad (Fat Joe) – “Bring It On” (off The Album, 1999)

Doesn’t rock back and forth as fast and tightly as “Keep It Thoro” but the subtle violin that leads into the piano is dope, an example of what TS should’ve been.

Download: Mobb Deep – “The Realest” featuring Kool G Rap (off Murda Muzik, 1999)

Another minimal masterpiece, very faint whistle outside of the stringy bassline and drums. Makes you feel like you are listening to the mob of the hood (no pun intended), shit would be the theme song if this was for Kool G Rap & Mobb Deep in a Goodfellas or Godfather.

Download: Prodigy (of Mobb Deep) – “Keep It Thoro” (off H.N.I.C., 2000)

Incredible piano sample with a minimal bass line, I can listen to this track on loop for days (even the sample looped itself!). It’s one of those beats that makes any freestyle over it sound listenable. This song showed P could do solo shit. [This beat always reminded me of GZA’s “Liquid Swords” — real simple (almost TOO simple) melody, but the more you hear it, the more it sinks in. It’s crazy. Throw-a-TV-at-you crazy. — Buhizzle]

Download: Smut Peddlers – “The Red Light” (off Eastern Conference All-Stars, Vol. 2, 2001)

Perfect example of Alc blessing underground groups with dope beats. Awesome jazzy sample, a prime example of the gold Rawkus put out. [This samples The Dells’ “I Can Sing A Rainbow/Love Is Blue,” which was also used on Mos Def’s “Beef,” Raekwon’s “Pitbull Fights,” and Ghostface’s “Shakey Dog.” I gotta say Alc flipped this sample the best, and most creatively. — Buhizzle]

Download: Prodigy (of Mobb Deep) – “Raining Guns And Shanks” (unreleased, 2007)

As I’ve said before over here, some people may hate the kettle whistles, but “Whateva Man” like Redman. I love ‘em, they play perfectly into the hands of the crazy uptempo beat.

Side note: Am I the only one that loved Dilated Peoples’ “Back Again”? I thought it was vintage Dilated but it got a lukewarm reception. Also, how come Talib has never got a beat from Alc?

Buhizzle’s Picks

Download: Prodigy (of Mobb Deep) – “Three” featuring Cormega (off H.N.I.C., 2000)

The drop-off from the loud, booming opening to the spooky, high-pitched keys that follow throughout the track totally caught me off-guard at first. This beat has always stuck with me.

Download: Jadakiss – “We Gon’ Make It” featuring Styles P (off Kiss Tha Game Goodbye, 2001)

… also known as …

Download: Ras Kass – “Home Sweet Home” (unreleased, 2000)

No matter whose song you prefer, the violins are straight-up beautiful — it’s one of those beats that you just never get tired of. I shunned Jadakiss’ version at first because I felt like Ras Kass got robbed (and, in a way, I still do), not to mention all the label politics bullshit Ras was going through (and, in a way, he still is). But ‘Kiss and Styles are golden when they work that “line-for-line” style. And I can’t get over the fact that Jada pronounces the “L” in “salmon.” (And for sample heads out there, this one uses Samuel Johnson’s “I Love Music.” So do I, Samuel.)

Download: Ghostface – “The Forest” featuring Raekwon (off Bulletproof Wallets, 2001)

The flutes work perfectly with Ghost’s name-dropping of cartoon characters throughout this track. The version available for download features a bridge that was cut out of the retail version of Bulletproof Wallets, with Ghost flipping the tune from “Tomorrow” (from Annie) into a sing-along about his Wallabee’s. If you’ve never heard it… brace yourself.

Download: Mobb Deep – “Got It Twisted” (off Amerikaz Nightmare, 2004)

I could have just as easily picked one of Alc’s other contributions to Amerikaz Nightmare, as “Win Or Lose” and “When U Hear The” are both bangers in their own right (and both deserving of links). But seriously, it gets no grimier than sampling Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science.” Fuckin’ right.

Download: Prodigy (of Mobb Deep) – “Nickel And A Nail” (off Return Of The Mac, 2007)

You could tell that Alchemist was kind of throwing ideas against the wall and seeing what might work while putting together Return Of The Mac (even resurrecting chipmunk soul on “Stuck On You”). This track hit the hardest, and best exemplified the overall ’70s-blaxploitation-film-soundtrack vibe of the mixtape. Damn… I can’t help but wonder where Mobb Deep would be right now if not for Alc.

On the next go-round — DJ Premier. Stay tuned…

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  1. SosaNotTony

    Good to see that you included We Gonna Make, probably my favorite beat of all time.

    “A Gangster & A Gentleman” is one hell of a beat, too.

    Btw: If you wanna hear somebody really workin with “Bring It On”:

    “Hail Mary and light candles? What the fuck?! When I die justr hail a cab and light up a dutch.

  2. nameless

    QOUTE>>>“Hail Mary and light candles? What the fuck?! When I die justr hail a cab and light up a dutch.”

    Does anyone know what ^^that track is called and where i can find the instrumental?

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