The Alchemist

Chemical Warfare

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Previewed heavily on the producer's 2008 EP, The Cookbook, Alchemist's often-delayed album, Chemical Warfare, matches his 2004 release, 1st Infantry, when it comes to both quality control and riveting beats, but fans expecting nothing but that hardcore punch may be alienated by a handful of surprisingly mainstream numbers. With guest singer Maxwell in full neo-soul mode, "Smile" is the sunshine bright high point of the crossover tracks, with the club-aimed Three 6 Mafia and Juvenile feature "That'll Work" running a close second. On the flipside there's the underground sound of Gangrene -- Alchemist's project with Oh No -- along with the hypnotic backpacker cut "Therapy," which returns from The Cookbook EP, but improved with an added verse from Talib Kweli. Kicking off the Lady of Rage comeback with the great Dogg Pound team-up "On Sight" displays the kind of throwback smarts that have earned the producer respect from the hip-hop faithful. Temper that with the absolutely filthy, very funny, and very short title track with Eminem, and the album offers the full Alchemist picture. He's confident enough to be sacrilegious yet smart enough to offer substance, and while not every returning Dilated Peoples or Mobb Deep fan will be able to hang with his more mature side, Chemical Warfare keeps this capo's reputation in tact. Recommended for aspiring dons and more open-minded thugs.

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