Beat Construction: The Alchemist

July 09, 2012

The producer is one of the most crucial yet anonymous figures in all of music. Every other week, with Beat Construction, an extension of our column in the magazine, we aim to illuminate the role producers are playing in creating some of our favorite music. This week's subject, The Alchemist, should need no introduction, with heavyweight collaborators like Lil Wayne, Nas, Eminem, Mobb Deep and Curren$y padding his resume. Alc's new album, Russian Roulette, is set to drop next week, with guest shots from the likes of Danny Brown, Schoolboy Q and Action Bronson. So, naturally, he took some time out to talk to us about Das EFX, turkey bacon and Australian money.

This is for our Beat Construction where we talk about beats and making them and all of that. That's fun stuff. Beats and making them. Girls especially like when you talk about snares. They really dig it when guys talk about quantizing loops. That's how I get most of my pussy. Wait… are you recording? Are we live?

Yeah. Oh fuck.

So it seems like you've recently kind of flipped up your sound and… Flippity floppily scoop! It's kind of inspired by like… BUM STIGGITY BUM, BUM STIGGITY BUM. I wanted to do that in beat form. You know? When Das EFX said BUM STIGGITY BUM STIGGITY BUM they came with some next shit, right? I'm trying to be the equivalent of that on the production level.

[Long silence] That's crazy right? You fucking with that? Think about that metaphorically! Put it in a rhyme form. It's some shit, that's the type of shit we're on. Do you smoke weed? You should try the Girl Scout Cookies. It's good weed. Try some Girl Scout Cookies, brought to you by… Actually all the famous products I like I'm just trying to shout them out in interviews, get a sponsorship or some shit. Girl Scout Cookies, hundred dollar bills. I like hundred-dollar bills too. I say that shit all the time. I feel like if you say things they'll come to you, right? Hundred-dollar bill, hundred-dollar bill, hundred-dollar bill.

Uh… what else has been inspiring you lately? Other than Das EFX, of course. A lot of different stuff out there. The fact that Australian money is made out of plastic. That's next level shit. When I see stuff like that, that makes me want to do next level music. I'm dead ass. That's actually real shit. It's un-rip-able. That's true, you can't rip it. Did you know that?

Nope. I'm just interested in different things, cool facts. I bet you didn't even know the first product to have a barcode was Wrigleys gum.

I did not know that. See, when they read this interview they're gonna get some shit, man. They don't want to know about a snare, trust me. They want to know that the bagpipe was originally made from the whole skin of a dead sheep!

How did you first get interested in facts? It started on September 27th. I started my facting because World Tourist Day is September 27th. There's another fact for you.

So… you came up under DJ Muggs early on, correct? Yeah that's my big brother. Real good guy.

What was your relationship with him like? He was real intimidating. He definitely would beat people up and I saw that first hand. I didn't want to get beat up. So I just played my role. It was fun though, we made a lot of money together and I used to sleep on his couch in my high school years. Make funky rap beats for Cypress Hill and smoke mad weed. It was fun. He used to pay me in cash and we'd to go to Benihana. Muggs does it his way. And if you don't do it that way then get the fuck out of the room. And don't take that the wrong way, he knows how to vibe with people. But I learned how to man the ship, run your own show.

Yeah it seems like you've carved out a very specific lane for yourself in the past few years especially. That's a good thing right? I'm comfortable, nice and comfortable. I'm gonna take my shoes off. Mr. Rodgers. I have some theme music. Can I answer the next question with some theme music in the background?

Sure. Are you still actively shopping for records? [Puts on funky, Blaxploitation style instrumental in the background] Yeah, still checking for those records. Love me some plates. I just like the smell of dust. Do you like dust? I love dust.

What kind of gear are you working with? [Plays a different but similar backing track] Sometimes I like to sit back, work on that Oberheim. Play a little Fender Stratosphere, aww yeah, you hear that? That's not me playing… that's not me… but I like that…

What producers did you look up to growing up? I want to give a shout out to Lord Finesse, T-Ray, The Baka Boyz, The Beatnuts. So funky, so funky. Like a street junkie.

So when you sit down and make a beat how do you decide if you're going to use it for a solo project or if you're going to shop it to different artists? I probably think of somebody who can rap first. I like to keep accapellas around and shit like that, play them over the beat and get all excited. Like, "Wooh! Billy Danz is rapping on my beat!" I was actually looking for a Cormega acapella this morning just to mix it. I could probably just call him and ask him for an acapella. I should probably do that.

You've gotten to work with a pretty broad spectrum of artists over the years. Yeah it's fun. I just work with who I think is dope. I'm in the lab with my man Domo [Genesis] from Odd Future right now, we're working on some shit, coming out of left field. He got some shit. See? I'm giving you exclusive information! I should've put a fucking theme song behind that one.

What kind of records are you drawing samples from these days? I don't sample so I don't know what you're talking about.

At all? Naw.

Never? What's a sample?

[Shuffles papers] He's shuffling papers over there! I've never stumped an interviewer. That's tight. This is good stuff, I want to read this. I want to see how you write this. It just makes your job exciting bro! Does it ever get boring for you? It gets boring for us. I don't mind though, it's fun, I love it. It's a job [for you], you gotta get the specifics. Where are you from? What school did you go to? What underwear did you wear in high school?

What is the ideal underwear for the modern beatmaker? The best underwear is, what do they call that shit? Tinfoil. Like the shit that Funkadelic would wear when they came on stage. Stupid funky tinfoil drawers.

What is the choice beatmaker's breakfast? I think oatmeal. Oatmeal's a good one. It's hearty. But it's gotta be that lumpy shit, it can't be watered down. It's textured. It's gotta be like paste, the shit you hang wallpaper with. Put a little Cinnamon in it, give it a little spice, a little flavor. Ginger's good. Ginger's a great spice in my life. Ginger's underestimated. Or underrated, rather. I think Turkey Bacon's underrated.

Fuck turkey bacon. There is only real bacon. Absolutely not, man. Your readers probably eat turkey bacon. Make a poll after this, let the readers respond. I guarantee they're gonna say turkey bacon. You're gonna lose this one, bro. Turkey bacon's great. Like, burnt. Real crispy turkey bacon.

Turkey bacon doesn't even crisp right. It has a great flavor, get over it. I touched a nerve there with the turkey bacon! Something must've happened as a child. But fuck turkey bacon. Russian Roulette is alright, right? It's better than turkey bacon. I gotta do some type of promotion right now. Russian Roulette is in stores July 17th. I gotta plug the shit otherwise the labels will get upset. That's what we're doing right, promoting the project?

Well, we were going to talk about beats. They want to hear about snares. I've never talked about a snare. I might lose some girls if I talk about snares. But go ahead, let's talk about snares.

So where do you get your snares? From the snare shop, over on Barham. Ask for Mannie, tell him I sent you.

From The Collection:

Beat Construction
Beat Construction: The Alchemist