It’s been over five years since Hip-Hop fans heard an album from the Infamous Alchemist. After the success of his debut album 1st Infantry in 2004, fans were ready to hear more. With Chemical Warfare almost complete, the Beverly Hills bred producer was ready to give fans what they were waiting for, but after the project was shelved for over two years, it left fans wondering what happened. Now Alchemist is back with the highly anticipated release of Chemical Warfare and has sat down with HipHopWired.com to discuss what delayed his new project, Duck Down and why he is about to flip the industry with his new auto-tune project.
HipHopWired: For those who don’t know, how did you go from Beverly Hills teen to one of the most sought after producers in the rap industry?
Alchemist: I still can’t figure it out [laughs], honestly it started with me playing around with scratching a few records, then I started writing rhymes and then I learned how to make beats and it was on from there. I really wish I could tell you that there was a very detailed plan and it all fell in line [but that isn’t how it went], I really just went after what excited me and made my blood rush; I never planned to get paid and make money off of music, it was always just something that I really loved to do.
HipHopWired: Do you think that initially people had a tough time taking you seriously because you are from Beverly Hills?
Alchemist: I think that people did have the misconception that because I came from Beverly Hills that I didn’t know how to work hard, which may be true in some cases. But at the end of the day, whether you are wealthy or from the hood; individuals are individuals and if you place them in a situation where they can do something they love, they are going to excel. I think that because I didn’t come from a family that was struggling, it allowed me to be more creative and focus on the craft to get better at it, without the stress that someone else may have had growing up differently.
HipHopWired: With the sound that you create, most people can’t tell that you didn’t struggle like the artists you have worked with. The passion that you bring is what has helped break barriers to help people look past your childhood, but being surrounded by those artists who actually had to struggle and weren’t as fortunate as you were, did you ever find it difficult to relate to what they were going through?
Alchemist: Honestly when I create beats, I don’t feel that I necessarily have to “relate” to the struggle because I am not rhyming on the track. I really just sit back and imagine the beat that I create for the artist because I am inspired-so I don’t feel that I need to relate to create the soundtrack for an artist. Now when it comes to getting on a track to rhyme that is different. I have a track with Snoop, Pusha T and Jadakiss on my album called “Lose Your Life,” where they are talking some real street Shyte and I just didn’t feel right getting on the track talking about something that I had never been through because I didn’t know how to approach it. I mean, what would I look like talking about robbing people on the corner and busting at people, it would sound corny because it is not authentic and people can see right through that.
HipHopWired: Do you feel that there is a cultural barrier in Hip-Hop that a lot of artists are failing to acknowledge? Because right now you have a lot of well established rappers who have become successful and have some money that still feel the need to talk about robbing people and grinding on the streets and their career is going nowhere.
Alchemist: I feel like that anyone who is trying to be something that they are not, will one day get revealed and when it comes to the music business, I think a lot of fans feel like it is the new WWF. I really don’t think it’s just about people who have money fronting like they are poor, I think it also applies to people who are not as successful as they say they are fronting like they are rich. I think in general a lot of rappers are looking at it now like it’s just entertainment, but me as a person-I feel that you should always keep it one hundred because if you don’t it will get revealed and your career won’t be long lasting.
HipHopWired: With that being said, do you feel that one problem in the industry is that artists are stagnant in their growth as artist, because listening to music now you would think that no one has achieved success because everyone is still pretty much rhyming about being a stick up kid?
Alchemist: Yeah, but at the same time as an artist I feel that how you want to paint your picture is cool, but if people continue to see too much of the same thing it will stagnate. I think the big problem is that people are afraid, whether it is to keep it real or change it up whatever it is, that fear of not being accepted is what is making a lot of fans not like them anymore. I know that personally, as a fan of music, [I] appreciate artists more that make music because they love it and not necessarily care if I like it or not. Because then people have no choice but to respect you for trying to grow and expand your horizon and experiment with your style and not trying to cater to me or fit in.
HipHopWired: You are really close with Mobb Deep, how did that friendship develop and how do you feel about Prodigy’s situation?
Alchemist: Well we are all funky fresh and all under five foot five so that was like “Hey we have something in common, big up to the little guys.” [laughs]. Honestly, it was a gradual thing. B-Real from Cypress Hill gave me my start and he had worked with [Mobb Deep] before on different projects, so he introduced us while I was going to school in New York. They were pretty much established and I was impressed by them and wanted to hang out with the “Infamous Mobb,” so I started going by the studio bringing beats and stuff. The thing about Mobb Deep is that they are a tight knit group and I loved them as artists and I just wanted to hang out. Once we got passed that we started hanging out and realized we had a lot in common. For instance Prodigy’s grandmother had money and owned a successful dance school in Queens and his grandfather was a successful musician who played with Quincy Jones, so P[rodigy] came up in a way similar to the way I came up. Now, I am not going to say that he was rich and he did explain to me about the hard times after his parents split up, but he went to the hood with Havoc after they met at the School of Art and Design. So it was a lot of things that I felt we had in common and we just clicked and once I became their DJ when they went on tour with Limp Bizkit we became even tighter.
As far as P[rodigy]’s situation, we have been through some way more crazier stuff than that. I’m not from the hood and they know that and they accept me for that. They can trust me as a man, but when it comes to beef they aren’t going to come to me like, “Yo pass me the hammer, Al’s gonna handle this.” [laughs]. It’s more on the level of me talking to them about how to avoid bad situations or them trying to avoid the situations because of me. Of course we couldn’t avoid them all and some of the situations are well known, but I think that this situation is pretty much a slap on the wrist from the powers that be telling him to smarten up a little bit and make better choices because we have gotten into way nuttier stuff than his gun charge and I think it was really a lesson for us all.
HipHopWired: Do you feel that there was anything that anyone could have said to possibly help change some of the decisions that he made?
Alchemist: P[rodigy] is a warrior; he has an amazing spirit to think positive in some of the worst situations. Like with the Jay-Z thing and even now, he always looked at it like, “This is Mobb Deep, we’re the best,” even if he was wrong, it was still easy for him to have that attitude about every situation. So I think all in all there wasn’t anything that anyone could have said or done, we all have lessons that we need to learn from or go through but I know that he is making the best of it and will come out on top like he always manages to do.
HipHopWired: Are there any plans on working with Havoc to release any upcoming projects?
Alchemist: Yeah, we definitely click on the beat tip and over the years have taught each other a lot. Right now more than ever I feel that it is our responsibility to hold it down and keep things together, so whatever he needs I am definitely there for him. Right now there are some things we are talking about so hopefully we will get them out there soon.
HipHopWired: Let’s focus on your album, Chemical Warfare; it was originally supposed to be released two years ago, what was the hold up on the release?
Alchemist: Everything is timing in this business and I feel that the timing wasn’t right for the album back then. Now I feel that everything has worked out and the industry is ready for me, it was turning Summer and the single is blowing up so in essence I did a good thing by waiting for the burning bush. As far as the album being pushed back, that is something that I have no control over, the label had plans to do other things and personally I’m not a fan of that because I had already began to tell the fans and do interviews so I started to look like the boy who cried wolf. So this time I waited until I had a solid release date before I started to promote the album, because[after what happened previously]I started to feel bad [like I had let my fans down]and that I needed to explain to the fans why there was no album. But I am looking at a physical copy of the album right now and we have the solid release date which is July 7th, so now I feel comfortable about shooting that last jump shot without fearing that someone is going to come at the last minute and move the rim.
HipHopWired: You know the big question on everyone’s mind right now is are you going to use auto-tune?
Alchemist: Actually I am going to do a second version of my album similar to chopped and screwed, only it is going to be in auto-tune. What is really going to kill them is that this is the first time that the beat is going to be in auto-tune as well, so this is going to be a big moment and I want to give a shot out to Jay-Z because he actually gave his blessing on this. You know he was saying death to auto-tune but he said I could do the beat in auto-tune because this is the only thing that hasn’t been done yet, so he wrote an ok for this and I have an excuse. [laughs]
HipHopWired: That would be dope! [laughs] The only thing is when someone starts a trend; everyone in the industry wants to copy it. How are you going to stop people from doing that?
Alchemist: Can we start the interview over? Since we are setting trends, I would like to do this whole interview in auto-tune. [laughs]
HipHopWired: Sure, matter of fact since you said we are starting trends; let’s start a trend where everyone uses auto-tune daily. When you see a stranger, say “Hi” in auto-tune. [laughs]
Alchemist: Totally, matter of fact let’s see if we can get this typed in auto-tune with special fonts, we need to look into that. [laughs]
HipHopWired: Now there is a lot of speculation that you are affiliated with Duck Down, so can you explain to the fans exactly what the deal is with you and Duck Down?
Alchemist: The deal with me and Duck Down is that Dru-Ha (the co-founder and CEO of Duck Down Records) and I look like twins. [laughs] That is the only affiliation that I have with Duck Down, now of course they are legendary and I wouldn’t mind working with them, but I am not currently affiliated with Duck Down. It’s funny because P[rodigy], Havoc and I would be out and people would always mistake us for Dru-Ha, Five Foot and Buckshot, so people would actually be yelling “Black Moon and Dru-Ha” and I am looking around for them too. [laughs] But I do want to say that Duck Down is really putting out some great work right now and really holding it down for the east, so shot out to Duck Down.
HipHopWired: Honestly, because of your affiliation with underground and independent artists it is a little shocking that you haven’t done anything with Duck Down, is that something that you can see happening in the future?
Alchemist: Of course, Sean Price is one of my favorite artists, so I would love for me and him to do some music. I would definitely love to work with them on a project, because I love working with new and underground artists, so I would definitely if the opportunity arises.
HipHopWired: Are you still working with Eminem?
Alchemist: Yes, definitely he is big homie. We have been working a lot closer lately, he is featured on my album and that was a blessing because I don’t think he is on anyone’s album right now besides his own. We have been discussing a lot of things, looking at different projects that we can do to shake the game up. I know that as far as my collaborations with Eminem and Mr. Porter, we have just scratched the surface so stay tuned because we definitely have some projects in the works.
HipHopWired: Last but not least, what other projects are you working on that fans need to look out for?
Alchemist: The Bummer Album is 2 records that are coming out by a group called Gang Green which is myself and Oh No, an artist from the West coast who is the brother of Madlib. So that is coming out following Chemical Warfare and the whole album is dope, also I have another album coming out with Evidence from Dilated Peoples called Stepbrothers. On the production side I produced a track on Fabolous’ album called “Lullaby” and also I worked on a track for Raekwon for his Only Built4 Cuban Linx 2 album, so there are a lot of projects coming your way. I do want to let fans know that I was just joking about the whole auto-tune thing and be sure to go get Chemical Warfare on July 7th.