The Alchemist, 1st Infantry

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

"Our boy Al! Everybody's pal!" declares the sing-song kid's-record sample (or some modern approximation of one) that threads through 1st Infantry. It's a rather cutesy marquee statement, but it's safe to say that Alchemist's one of the most popular kids on the playground. He cut records with Whooligans before he reached driver's-license age, and he's built beats for rappers spanning D Block to G-Unit, so they all hop onto this cohesive first producer's album. While Al's got a lock on a solid street vibe, it's soul that demarks the album's best tracks: the melancholy solidarity of young sister singers Nina Sky on "Hold You Down"; the '70s deep-funk bass line on "Where Can We Go" (featuring Devin the Dude); and "Tick Tock," a steamy, street-level love-letter to Queensbridge featuring Nas and Mobb Deep's Prodigy. Alchemist's made some of his best beats for Mobb Deep (for a good overview, track down their best-of mixtape Street Chemistry), and when the groggy space-trunk thumper "It's a Craze" hits, their styles cook like egg yolks on hot pavement. Havoc and Prodigy's easy deliveries are slackjawed yet focused, foils to Al's sparse bass, handclaps and distant melody. With beats like this, he'll never have enemies.