Our 2021 Annual Report continues with the announcement of The Alchemist as our Producer of the Year. As the year winds down, stay tuned for more awards, lists, and articles about the best music, film, and TV of 2021. You can find it all in one place here.
Whether it’s stacking beats in the lab or hitting the road, The Alchemist spends the majority of his time laser-focused on music. So it took a rare moment of downtime for Consequence to catch up with the prolific producer in late November — when he was still recovering from being sick after coming off a tour of Europe.
Not one to stay idle for too long, ALC gamely hopped on Zoom from his Los Angeles studio with a cup of coffee in hand to discuss an outstanding year in which he teamed up with Armand Hammer and Boldy James for Haram and Bo Jackson, respectively — two of the Best Albums of 2021 — while also putting out a pair of EPs: This Thing of Ours and This Thing of Ours 2.
Last year also saw him team with Boldy for The Price of Tea in China and Freddie Gibbs for Alfredo. Both LPs earned slots on the Best Albums of 2020 list, with the latter earning ALC his first-ever Grammy nod more than two decades into his career. Other producers might have taken time to bask in that honor, but that’s never been Alchemist’s style.
In fact, the Los Angeles native came back more motivated than ever, telling Consequence that he and Boldy pushed each other in the studio partially through physical competition. “We’ll just like, have different contests,” Alchemist reveals. “He’ll fuck me up on basketball court, but then maybe I’ll drink orange juice faster. He’s pretty much better than me at everything.”
In order to surpass their previous collaboration, the duo used “revenge” as a mantra, even having a translator come in to help them write it in every single language. As if the concept of taking on the entire world wasn’t enough, emotions like anger served as a powerful motivator.
“You gotta start with an emotion first when you create you know, right?” he explains. “Like he’ll be like screaming on somebody on the phone. Somebody did something wrong. And that’s all [it takes] sometimes at the beginning of a good record.”
On tracks like “Speed Trap,” it’s easy to see how the duo put all those pieces of the puzzle together as Boldy skates over a sparse, psychedelic beat in his signature monotone. “Neighborhood wholesaler, fuck who rap best,” he sneers. “I could sell dope better, make a pack stretch/ Motherfuck a Coachella, this a trap fest.”
While ALC had an established relationship with Boldy, Haram marked the first time he worked with Armand Hammer after being put on to the New York City duo by his close collaborator Earl Sweatshirt. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, touring, and both artists working on other projects, putting together the album wasn’t as seamless as they had initially planned.
However, they made it work by sending music ideas back and forth, as well as finding time for Armand Hammer to come by Alchemist’s LA studio. “We did a lot of brainstorming,” says ALC, “sometimes that’s all it takes. It doesn’t have to all be recorded together. Wherever the comfort zone is and how you can work best.”
For Armand Hammer duo billy woods and E L U C I D, they found a comfort zone in zooted, atmospheric beats. The gothic production envelops the pair in the proper amount of darkness to lay bare their unveiled criticism of colonialism, hypocritical would-be progressives, and the government.
When it came to his own projects, The Alchemist entered This Thing of Ours with no specific motivation but to get some of his favorite artists — like Earl Sweatshirt, Vince Staples, Mavi, Navy Blue, and Maxo — together at the studio and create the best music possible on any given day. “It was just a moment of time in this year where I felt really compelled to do dope shit,” Alchemist recalls.
“I felt like I just had all these great artists around me,” he adds. “So as I was being compelled to do dope shit, I had all these great rappers and they just fell in line. It was perfect. It was like a commandment. That’s how it felt.”
It doesn’t sound too different from the 2010s, when then-up-and-coming rappers Action Bronson, ScHoolboy Q, Danny Brown, and Earl Sweatshirt became his close collaborators. Coming off his days producing for Mobb Deep and elite New York artists like Nas and Jadakiss, ALC didn’t have anything to prove. Crafting his sound in tandem with the new generation, Alchemist entered a new era that served as the jumping off point to where he is today.