June 8, 2018

For Promotional Use Only; The Alchemist - No Days Off (September 26, 2006)

Daniel Alan Maman, known as The Alchemist by his accountant and two of his five bounce house suppliers, has been producing mostly hip hop records for seemingly eight hundred and ninety-three years now. There’s certainly never been a day this very blog has been alive where The Alchemist wasn’t already heavily involved in our chosen genre, and he doesn’t seem to show any sign of stopping anytime soon, even though he’s certainly spent a lot more time on Twitter lately. The West Coast-based producer-slash-occasional rapper who embedded himself with both the Soul Assassins collective and Mobb Deep has worked his ass off to provide his employers the grimy, authentic street shit he’s best known for, and even though I tend to find him falling on the “fine, just... fine” side of things more often than not, his work ethic cannot be denied, and when everything clicks, he’s easily one of the best beatmakers hip hop has ever gifted us.

But of course, anyone that generates work in bulk is bound to have a bunch of duds in his collection. Hell, there are a bunch of write-ups on this site that I wish I never published for various reasons: they were rushed to meet an arbitrary deadline; the subject matter bored me so much that I couldn’t come up with an interesting take; it could have been funnier. But I’m leaving them up for now as a way to track my own progress. The Alchemist has a shit-ton of songs locked up in various vaults around the country, most of which have not yet been locked into any proper project, but even though he has absolutely no reason to do so, he has given listeners infrequent compilations of some of these tracks just because he could, so that we can track his progress, too. I have no idea how royalties work for projects such as these, especially since Alan has actually sold some of these collections, but that’s not my problem, now, is it? I just appreciate the fact that he’s more open with his cutting room floor than, say, almost every other hip hop producer in recent memory.

No Days Offis a mixtape that was released by The Alchemist waaaaaaaay back in 2006, a somewhat simpler time in hip hop, before the sound of 808 drums took over the genre, back when each region of the United States still had its own signature sound, before the Interweb brought everyone closer and pushed all of us further away all at once. We still had a bad president in 2006, one that shouldn’t be let off the hook just because of the dumpster fire that is our current administration. This blog didn’t even exist, and yet I still don’t think I had any free time. And The Alchemist was about to start flooding the market with collaborative albums, his bread-and-butter these days. It followed his previous Insomnia project, which was released to promote his debut album 1st Infantry, but followed the blueprint of his first mixtape, The Cutting Room Floor, as No Days Off is the aural equivalent of The Alchemist cleaning out his closet.

His follow-up full-length projects included the acclaimed Prodigy collaboration Return of the Mac and his sophomore solo effort, Chemical Warfare, so No Days Off falls within an interesting time in the man’s career. But it’s not like the songs on here were all recorded during this interesting time, so let’s see how all of this shit plays out.

Cellblock P of Mobb Deep stops by to support his boy. Unnecessary, but it’s good to know that the two seemed to genuinely like one another. Unlike, say, Prodigy and his rhyme partner Havoc. I realize they had kissed and made up long before Prodigy’s untimely passing, but some of that shit Hav claimed can’t just be waved away as frustration getting the best of him. Some of that was highly specific. Still, R.I.P. Prodigy.

Runs for far too long (as No Days Off is a mixtape, it’s stuck with the trappings of the format, including annoying drops at random intervals and the song restarting just because) over a repetitive instrumental that won’t do anybody any favors. “Flashlight” is a forgettable philosophical exercise: if you boast and bullshit, but nobody else is around, do you even matter? Whatever the fuck a 40 Glocc is opens the song (I understand he was a sort-of Mobb Deep and G-Unit affiliate, but that means less than nothing to me), but the actual verses are handled by Ras Kass and Alan himself. I’m sure the participation of Rassy was a bigger deal back in 2006 post-“Home Sweet Home” controversy, but if “Flashlight” was intended by our host as a peace offering, I sincerely hope that Ras Kass broke a chair over his head after No Days Off was released, because this was worse than bad: it was boring.

The combination of Prodigy and The Alchemist was always hit-or-miss for me, leaning more heavily toward the “hit” end of the spectrum during their Albert Einstein collaborative project, but “Legends” is an overwhelmingly dull throbbing migraine that isn’t as blindingly painful, but still disrupts your weekend plans. The instrumental can only be described as “existing”, and Autobio P’s cold threats, while still similar to everything he’s presented his entire fucking career, don’t hit quite as hard thanks to the musical backing. “Legends” takes time to shout out actual legends in the rap game such as LL Cool J and the late Jam Master Jay, so I won’t discount it outright, but there’s a reason rap nerds don’t list this among their favorite Prodigy performances.

Al should have given the “Making Your Money” beat to someone else, perhaps a rapper that wouldn’t have agreed to fuck everything up by including the distorted vocal that supposedly repeats the song’s title. Xzibit sounds alright-ish, but this isn’t his track to ruin. No, that honor goes to Strong Arm Steady’s Mitchy Slick, whose higher-pitched voice clashes with X’s gruff flow (as Xzibit is an occasional member of Strong Arm Steady, this isn’t the only time this has happened) while the instrumental plots its revenge over on the sidelines. I have nothing more to say. Oh wait, one last thing: this shit sucked.

The Alchemist passes production duties to his Step Brothers sibling Evidence for “Hot & Cold”, and it shows, as the beat doesn’t sound like anything Alan would have ever concocted, and yet is still as frustrating and annoying as the man’s worst efforts. And the hook on here straight-up blows. It’s difficult to focus on the lyrics with the beat threatening to drill itself into your subconscious and the loud ‘click’ of the gun cocking on the side of your head to combat it, but from what I can recall, Evidence and Alan turn in performances that were at least on par with the shit I can remember from their Lord Steppington project that I haven’t written about yet. Which isn’t saying much, and I’m sorry about that.

A strange thing happened while I was listening to “On The Rize”, Tha Dogg Pound’s contribution to No Days Off: I hated it at first, as I felt that none of the elements complemented one another, and yet by the time the track ended I found myself kind of digging it. Don’t get me wrong, there was no meet-cute, and I didn’t suddenly fall in love with this shit and marry it for the health insurance benefits, but I was able to appreciate Alan’s stab at a G-Funk soundscape, and neither Daz nor Kurupt Young Gotti sounded terrible, even if neither ever seemed to be fully comfortable. Maybe I just felt nostalgic for a different era in hip hop: there’s a point on the track where Kurupt name-drops all of his former Death Row Records labelmates, as well as Soopafly and Warren G. Yeah, that was probably what did it for me. But still.

Our host dips back into the Cellblock P bucket with “You Got It”, an attempt at an old-school flavor smashed into the side of some melody, not unlike pressing together cherry and strawberry Starbursts in your palm. For his part, Prodigy is much more alert than he normally seemed  during this era, but the faster tempo of the beat may have caused his heart to race, sounding awake merely being a side effect. “You Got It” is alright for a minute or so, but it runs for three verses, which is two too goddamn many: this is one of those cases where The Alchemist should have shown some restraint. But, you know, this is hip hop: the fuck is restraint, really?

Completely useless.

I really liked the instrumental for “It’s Gon’ Pop”, which made me hate the preceding track even more for wasting my fucking valuable time when Alan could have jumped straight here. Ahem. Anyway, “It’s Gon’ Pop” is a stellar showcase for straight spitting, as the Step Brothers, who bookend the track, and Joe Scudda (a former member of the North Carolina collective Justus League, which also included Little Brother at its height) all deliver great boasts-n-bullshit over a beat that’s so good, I can’t understand how it never ended up on a proper project. This was the best song on No Days Off so far, and yes, it is annoying that I had to sit through eight tracks before I could hear it.

I feel bad that Obie Trice found himself ignored by the Shady Records machine, but not that bad: at least he managed to release two albums before his label boss Marshall Mathers (who employs our host as his tour deejay, but has yet to commission a beat from him for any of his own solo efforts) noticed he was still on the payroll and revoked his privileges and parking space. Would a beat from The Alchemist have helped his cause? Not bloody likely. But “Divine Intervention” isn’t a wasted opportunity for Trice, as he uses Alan’s not-very-memorable instrumental to just spit bars until his second shift at White Castle begins. But I digress.

I understand why our host keeps throwing collaborations with Prodigy onto No Days Off, but I wish he had saved some spots for others to play around with. Especially after hearing “I Betcha”, a raging dumpster fire of a track that features crooning from Kokane that seems to float in from another studio, while Cellblock P’s lyrics approach the awfulness he was roaming within on Mobb Deep’s otherwise-entertaining “The Learning (Burn)”. Groan.

The instrumental is the last thing that plays in the mind of a robot before the “kill all humans” protocol is activated. Not a compliment. Alan and 8-Off the Agallah deliver competent, if completely forgettable, rhymes, which I most likely would have appreciated more had the chorus not been one of the worst goddamn things I have ever heard during my time on this blog. This is not an exaggeration: it was fucking dreadful. Thankfully, I never have to listen to “Ride Out” ever again, so I have that going for me, which is nice.

Un Pacino, a loose affiliate of Mobb Deep and the Infamous Mobb, snags a track all to himself, and boy oh boy does he squander that opportunity. Alan’s chemistry behind the boards provides a pretty decent beat, but Pacino’s dull delivery is dead weight, and Al simply isn’t a strong enough artist to carry the burden on his shoulders alone. Maybe if he had contributed a verse, “Words From Un” could have worked, even though that song title wouldn’t have made any sense. But this is hip hop: none of this makes any sense.

“Sometimes my day’s so long, I be Gladys Knight (glad it’s night)”? That shit was corny as fuck, Ev. Anywhatsit, “Make My Own” wasn’t bad, aside from the aforementioned bar from the guest, which made me audibly groan and miss the rest of his performance. But overall, I liked the track. Defari’s flow has always sort-of put me to sleep, but he manages well here, and Alan’s instrumental was kind of catchy, so.

No Days Off caps off the evening with a Sebb-produced Alchemist solo shot which was actually fairly entertaining. Our host sounds confident and composed behind the microphone: perhaps not having to focus on creating the beat gave him the creative push he needed to craft a tight verse. Sebb’s instrumental was also a nice way to end things. All in all, not bad, but given some of the outright trash I just had to sit through in order to get here, I damn well deserve this.

SHOULD YOU TRACK IT DOWN? The cover of No Days Off advertises the project as “a collection of previously-released and unreleased Alchemist productions”, but even though I’m not one hundred percent familiar with where some of these tracks ultimately ended up, if anywhere, I can say that, as a compilation, this was all over the goddamn place, as is the nature of a mishmash such as this, a description which also applies to every single other Alchemist mixtape. No Days Off is seemingly a showcase for the man’s malleable production style, which takes the form of whichever collaborator he has with him at any given time, and also, for a mercifully brief portion, his rhymes, but my main takeaway from this tape is that the Alchemist has a lot of friends in our chosen genre. In that way, he’s kind of a rap game Steven Soderbergh, a filmmaker who does whatever he can to help his actors shine in all of his projects (and my favorite director, but that’s not the point of this sentence), and his affable nature has helped him work with an ever-increasing large swath of Hollywood. Alan is in the same boat: have you seen his production credits? Dude has been everywhere, and yet he’s best known for the gangsta street shit he’s honed alongside Mobb Deep and, to a far lesser extent, DJ Muggs. However, Alan isn’t perfect: he does tend to hover around said gangsta street shit, which wouldn’t be a bad thing had he mastered that sound, and No Days Off implies that he has a long way to go. Obviously, keep in mind that No Days Off was released twelve years ago, but based on this time capsule, The Alchemist still had some work to do in 2006, both in defining and expanding his sound, and in reaching out to more varied collaborators. There are a few solid fucking tracks on here: “It’s Gon’ Pop” deserves a spot on your playlist, and “On The Rize” is a pleasant surprise that you’ll likely enjoy. But most of these tracks should have stayed in the vault: not everything one creates needs to be ingested by the public, because not everything one creates is going to be “good”. But given the nature of this type of mixtape, this is likely exactly what you expected me to say, so if that describes you, then have at it: you already know what you’re getting in to with No Days Off.


The Alchemist periodically pops up on the blog. Here is a link where you can read all about how much, or little, I care.


  1. AnonymousJune 08, 2018

    Are you going to check out the Kid Cudi and Kanye West joint?

    1. He said on Twitter that you'd have to contact him for a reader review, since he's not interested in doing another Kanye review. My opinion's that Kids See Ghosts is that the beats are about on Par with ye and Cudi is fine, but Kanye's lyrics are significantly better and more honest. At any rate it's superior enough to ye that the latter album is just going to look even worse as time goes on (re: by the end of the month).

    2. That, and also I'm super far behind on Cudi's catalog and don't feel Kids See Ghosts to be a good re-entry point.

  2. I’m DEFINITELY checking the Prodigy compilations, as it is my opinion that P and Al brought the absolute best out of each other. (As best as O could’ve gotten post-Infamy of course). But yeah, not super enthused for the rest of this mixtape.

  3. AnonymousJune 09, 2018

    u got fagott shit like boyz 2 men & beyonce's albums what about Evidence solo albums.I think he must suck your clock to get a look into.BUT IM STILL A FAN of HHID big up

    1. AnonymousJune 11, 2018

      Max you suck you're the worst you're awful I hate you. BUT I STILL LOVE YOUR SITE WORD UP.

      You got some weird fans, Max.

  4. AnonymousJune 11, 2018

    "Whatever the fuck a 40 Glocc is opens the song (I understand he was a sort-of Mobb Deep and G-Unit affiliate, but that means less than nothing to me), but the actual verses are handled by Ras Kass and Alan himself. I’m sure the participation of Rassy was a bigger deal back in 2006 post-“Home Sweet Home” controversy, but if “Flashlight” was intended by our host as a peace offering, I sincerely hope that Ras Kass broke a chair over his head after No Days Off was released" Haha that was fucking hilarious. Another great review man. Though not sure I can fully endorse a man who's favourite director made that Haywire piece of shit.....

    1. Eh, I enjoyed Haywire, but admittedly I've only seen it once. What I hold in (much) higher regard are flicks like Out of Sight, Solaris, Traffic, Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve (I'm the only person in the world that actually loves that movie), King of the Hill, The Girlfriend Experience, Full Frontal, Traffic, etc etc etc

    2. Didn't mean to write Traffic twice, but I'm leaving it

    3. AnonymousJune 15, 2018

      I'm not denying he's made some good films, but your favourite director is a pretty big statement. Solaris is a remake of a much better film. Ocean's Twelve is a totally and utterly worthless, steaming pile of shit. Traffic, I will admit, is so good you named it twice. Anyway, it's all opinion but I just can't imagine him being considered anyone's favourite director. Currently working or of all time? Because if it's of all time, you'r truly demented.

    4. AnonymousJune 15, 2018

      Oh, I just remembered I really liked Unsane. Shit.

    5. Now that one I haven't seen yet.

    6. Also, I can't say "of all time" because I'm not yet dead, and I don't want to discount any other filmmaker that I may happen upon or who may grow up to make some incredible shit. But Soderbergh's definitely up there, while The Alchemist is NOT one of my favorite producers, so while I stand behind my bold statement, I get that the analogy may not be perfect.

      Ocean's Twelve is hilarious if you imagine it as the exact opposite movie than its predecessor, with stakes so low that they're laughable.

  5. AnonymousJune 15, 2018

    Typical Max.. goes from the most relevant album to the least relevant album. Love it! Anyways, I thought I'd comment what I always comment, since your so damn consistent on this blog. Love Roc Marciano, love Kanye. Roc Marciano is the GOAT from Marcberg and onward Max. His DJ Muggs collab album will solidify it. Can I submit another guest review to you? I have one halfway written that I want to finish.

    1. Hit me up at the email address or on Twitter and we can discuss Reader Review stuff. If your idea approaches Roc Marcy's catalog, you may have a better shot at getting on, as I have zero plans to continue with his catalog. (hint hint)