There’s a lot to be said for the producer-artist dynamic in Hip-Hop. Mind you this is the era where anyone can be a “producer” and anyone can be a “rapper”, and that inconvenient convenience saturates the game. The chemistry between an MC and Producer who know each others’ ins and outs is sorely lacking and should be appreciated in it’s few instances. Where “Rapper ____” and 8 different producers on one project fail, Prodigy and Alchemist have delivered together for years now.
Even though Prodigy may not be at his 1990s height lyrically, he’s managed to carve out a nice second (and third) act as an underground stalwart rhyming over the grimy soundscape of a producer seemingly molded in part by the original Mobb Deep catalog. Funny how that works. Between tracks on Prodigy’s classic HNIC, various other moments and 2006’s unheralded Return of the Mac, when the two get together it’s as close to the gritty glory of the 1990s as many artists old or young get.
That dynamic is intact on Albert Einstein, which may be their best collaboration yet. Riding the wave of Alchemist’s unprecedented run of collaboration projects, he helps Prodigy create a project with direct elements of New Yitty’s dark roots, that still manages to push the boundaries of that original format.
The album comes in at 16 tracks but manages to feel like even more with Alchemist’s deeply layered, shape shifting beats. It’s an album that manages to be tightly sinister and cloudy at varying moments and still sound cohesive. It can be boundlessly imaginative (the standout “Bible Paper”) and loop focused (“Give Em Hell”) and works together to sonically channel the dark New York streets.
Prodigy sounds re-invigorated after an HNIC project that was criticized for too many commercial excursions. It’s as if he’s resolved to ride the last chapters of his career like the first: brutishly callous and menacing as ever. While not as lyrically dexterous or energetic with his delivery as past projects, his knack for telling the QB narrative is still intact. He’s mastered living within his liquor soaked world of ghetto paranoia, challenging all comers on and delivering vivid lines like “throw him in the acid and get rid of the gooey mess.”
This is the perfect example of chemistry working to the fullest degree. Though Prodigy is no longer a lyrical wunderkind, he has the veteran’s sense of what he wants to do with a record and Alchemist’s otherwordly production picks up the slack in ways the average producer wouldn’t be able to. The features (from Raekwon to Action Bronson to Havoc) contribute seamlessly because of familiarity with Prodigy and/or Alchemist. Everyone involved is familiar with the soundscape they entered and collectively made a well put together album.