Being featured on an Alchemist beat serves as a gauge of skill for rappers. It’s a way to measure their talent and gain recognition for their lyrical abilities. While the mainstream rap scene faces its own challenges—Lil Baby consistently delivering similar tracks, exorbitant prices for Drake concert tickets, and Lil Uzi’s frequent releases like the Pink Tape—there’s a thriving underground group of artists who are expanding their horizons with top-notch releases and accessible live shows. Throughout the middle to late 2010s, Alchemist, a renowned producer known for his mastery of manipulating samples, primarily collaborated with these underground artists. Prominent figures like Earl Sweatshirt, Roc Marciano, Action Bronson, Freddie Gibbs, Boldy James, and others have been recipients of his exceptional production. This stands as a testament to Alchemist’s preference for partnering with inventive and charismatic lyricists.
This particular inclination has propelled Alchemist to a cult hero status, granting him the freedom to choose who he works with and under what circumstances. The outcome is a sense of timeless influence bestowed upon those fortunate enough to be selected by Alchemist for his upcoming project.
His recent EP, “Flying High,” follows a similar structure to his past projects like “This Thing of Ours 1 & 2.” Alchemist adeptly manipulates and weaves cinematic samples, seamlessly merging transitions that flow cohesively, resulting in tracks that feel interconnected. The EP showcases the talents of some of the finest lyrical rappers in today’s rap landscape.
Arriving a few months after Alchemist’s impressive collaboration with Larry June on “The Great Escape,” where Alchemist re-emerged as a rapper himself, the EP continues his resurgence as a rapper. He contributes a solid verse on “Midnight Oil,” sharing the track with Larry June and Jay Worthy. There’s a blend of gratification and amusement in hearing the producer rap while reflecting on his lifestyle, almost akin to embodying the spirit of Tony Soprano.
The standout moment arrives with the mysterious collaboration between Earl Sweatshirt and billy woods, “RIP Tracy.” Earl and billy both wield intricate lyrical prowess that invites in-depth analysis. Earl employs poetic language that cloaks his bars in an air of intrigue, while billy’s verses are rooted in the tangible aspects of life. Alchemist’s production resembles a film score reaching its climactic scene, with the synths building up in the backdrop.
Boldy James teams up with South LA rapper T.F. on “Trouble Man,” painting an auditory picture that transports listeners to the heart of a bank heist. The track is packed with drama and escalating tension as the beat unfolds. “Bless,” featuring MIKE and Sideshow, offers a departure from the mafioso vibe, instead embracing a jazz-infused ambiance complete with cigars and cognac. MIKE’s verse stands out on “Flying High,” reflecting on past challenges with poignant lines like “Where I slept is where calluses formed/A rat, some Bombas for my breath, I had to travel through, laughed so much, dread.”
Alchemist’s “Flying High” EP is an enjoyable auditory experience, yet there’s a lingering sense that the revered producer might be settling into creative comfort. There’s potential for expansion beyond the familiar “Earl and friends” approach. Ultimately, “Flying High” leaves listeners yearning for more, a testament to its exceptional quality.