“Our boy Al, everybody’s pal,” as the record continually explains is a familiar and fitting description to the well-connected, creative, and adapting producer through his career. 1st Infantry is a 19-track, foundational record that acts as a bricklayer to the glitz and glam of guest features where Prodigy, The Game, Nas, Mobb Deep, and Nina Sky to name a few grant their presence throughout the tracklisting. With his all green background and brown clothing, The Alchemist works to form as a figment of the behind-the-scenes where he can boost other rhymers up through these complex beats with sample-heavy production that flows as a continual story rewriting itself at every turn.
The real beauty is how The Alchemist can manipulate each beat to fit the different rhymer’s style and ultimately shift between the coarse voices to the vocals of silk. With the single, that was “Hold You Down” that collaborates with Illa Ghee, Nina Sky, and Prodigy, there was this slow boom-clap beat that samples a vocal twirl while Prodigy rips. Then even as Nina Sky jumps into the frame, the beat is still approachable and finalizes to create a contrast against her pained voice as the sampled voice ad-libs “hold you down” in the backing track.
1st Infantry then finds a crossroads where The Alchemist dances between creating something that is head-knocking, to then being able to form a waltz as well. It somehow can tight rope with the track “It’s A Craze” that is a New York club hit that booms along with the chimes and 808s with verses trading off between Mobb Deep members Prodigy and Havoc. Somehow, the energy here just relies on the reunion factor that tugs at the nostalgic strings even near 15 years since the record first hit the streets. “It’s A Craze” is a joint on the record that can still be played years later and have this infamous feeling behind it where the boom of that bass becomes a breath of fresh air.
That age with The Alchemist’s debut record is important to highlight as this was a time in hip-hop where a revolution of style was coming. This was a golden era where New York was the prime place for hip-hop and had those monumental figures living inside its walls. With the way that he uses these samples, features, and even productive methods illustrates a deeper love and appreciation for one of the jumping points of an ever-expanding career in sound.