When does The Alchemist take a day off? That’s a damn good question. It doesn’t seem like Al has had any time to relax ever since first forming his ill-fated rap group The Whooliganz. Since that time he became a master of beat production, helped blow up Dilated Peoples, became synonymous with Mobb Deep bangers, dropped three different compilations AND became Eminem’s tour DJ, all while constantly being one of rap’s most in-demand beat maestros. If you’re looking to make a name for yourself dropping your first single, you could hardly go wrong with Alchemist on the boards. His help might not come cheap but it would be worth every penny, as he has an impeccable knack for turning the dark and dirty into the beautiful and vice versa. Even though he has on some occasions missed the mark, even beats that don’t work are produced so clean that you could eat off them.
If Al’s not taking a day off, RapReviews won’t either. Released quietly in the fall of 2006, “No Days Off” is another Alchemist compilation engineered to put across his signature sound while working with some of his favorite MC’s. Not surprisingly one of those rappers is Mobb Deep’s own Prodigy, who stars on three tracks he could easily have held for a much anticipated new solo album, including the aptly titled “Legends”:
“Gangsters don’t die, we just turn to legends
All we go through is hell, what the fuck is a heaven?
We live fast and stall death as long as possible
Get our cash and put threats in the hospital
Young P, when I was 13 I had dreams
To do what LL did, and Run-D.M.C.
Dirty lil’ fuck, learnin how to aim my pee
Older niggaz in the hood used to try to thug me
‘Til pops gave me a knife, told me handle my thing
And if not, when I came back, he would handle me
I put my first lil’ bit of fear in niggaz, I was gassed
Started hangin with the others that was on the same shit
Had my first taste of gunfire early in my years
Gang fightin, we was jumpin niggaz, we was just kids”
Prodigy’s at his most effective as a rap orator when he gets a soulfully melodic beat to match his naturally slow-flowing voice, and Alchemist delivers here in spades. On the other hand if you’re making a beat for Daz & Kurupt, you’ve got to amp it up so they can lyrically whoride “on this West coast gangbang expedition, worldwide on a gangsta mission” as they say on the chorus of “On the Rise.” Alchemist at his best comes with beats that are fitted like a Yankees cap, and just as much of a pleasure to your dome. Alchemist blends together an old school drumbeat and modern samples to link Evidence and Joe Scudda together on “It’s Gon’ Pop,” gets gritty and grimy like D-Town for Obie Trice’s “Divine Intervention,” and elevates things to a light and airy backdrop for Defari’s “Make My Own.”
If there’s any drawback for The Alchemist, a man whose name describes the mystical way he blends beats to make gold, it’s that sometimes the shit just seems to come too easy to him. Alchemist has yet to drop that certified classic perfect compilation, and after so many attempts one has to wonder if he ever will. To be fair a lot of his best tracks DO end up as the first single rappers drop, so it’s hard to save up all the best material when bills gotta be paid and people will drop five digits to get a track. Sometimes it’s also the circle of rappers he works with. Eventually when you hear Evidence on so many tracks on “No Days Off,” you have to wonder why they didn’t just do an Alchemist and Evidence album. In fact the one track he didn’t produce, “Hot & Cold,” is done by Ev and features Al. That’s all well and good but it’s contributions by the likes of Ras Kass, Xzibit and Agallah that are the most tantalizing. It’s not as if Al hasn’t worked with everybody from Jadakiss to Devin the Dude to The Game, so where are they on this album? In the end “No Days Off” is pretty damn solid from start to finish, but doesn’t do anything to take Alchemist to the next level.