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Alchemist’s latest, Russian Roulette, shouldn’t be classified as an album, nor as a mixtape. As Al describes in HipHopSite’s own interview from a few months back: “I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it is. It’s audio, it’s a length of time…. It’s just different from anything I’ve done, at least. It just kind of formed itself…Basically what I did was… know the wheel? I reinvented it.”

That said, it’s hard to put Russian Roulette in a box. It’s a not a project that spotlights Al’s production – nor his rhymes, for that matter – as it plays more like a grab bag of dug up samples and loops, rather than fully realized ALC beats. The closest comparison from his own catalog might be his Cutting Room Floor series, but this is actually more in line with Dilla’s Donuts.

Built around crate-dug samples from the most irradiated corners of Chernobyl, Al mines otherwise uncharted territory in terms of loops. Joining him are a handful of his usual collaborators, whom sporadically jump on top of his samples, like The Outdoorsman, who consecutively appear on under 2-minute tracks such as “Apollo’s Last Stand” (feat. A.G. The Coroner), “Crushed Kremlin” (feat. Meyhem Lauren), and “Discisions Over Veal Orloff” (feat. Action Bronson, naturally). Of course longtime collaborators like Evidence (“Never Grow Up”), Roc Marciano (“The Turning Point”) and Planet Asia (“Junkyard Fight Scene”) also appear to add their two cents; and quite literally, as pretty much everyone shows up in small doses.

The pace of Russian Roulette is it’s biggest drawback, as it rapidly jumps from sound-to-sound. There isn’t a track that clocks at three minutes long, making it hard for listeners to grab hold of what Al is cooking. Just as something starts to sink in, it moves on to the next one. Dilla mastered the flow of this type of album with Donuts; unfortunately something not so easy to recreate.

The prospect of Alchemist creating beats from one exclusive source (i.e. Russia) has the same lure attached to it as Oh No robbing Dolemite’s crates or Danger Mouse excavating The White Album. That concept unfortunately left us with higher expectations, given Al’s long-track record of fully-realized, street knocking beats. All in all, Russian Roulette still satisfies, even if at times is underwhelming.

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3 Responses to "Alchemist – “Russian Roulette” – @@@1/2 (Review)"
  • Model Citizen says:

    There’s just too much going on with this record. Alchemist is usually a sick producer but at times this album becomes a jumbled mess.

  • Dayz says:

    LP review is spot on in my opinion.

  • Wayne says:

    Too much going on indeed. I listened to this a couple of days ago, and while it’s not wack, it’s not great either. I like Alchemist, but I’m not buying this one.

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