Alan Maman, better known as The Alchemist, has never produced a Top 40 hit, despite overseeing memorable singles like Mobb Deep's "Got It Twisted," Dilated Peoples' "Worst Comes to Worst," Jadakiss' "We Gonna Make It" and Capone-N-Noreaga's "Bang Bang." However, his reputation for gangster theme music looms larger than any lack of mainstream success. Hip-hop fans consider him one of the best in the business.
His career dates back to the early '90s, when he was one-half of knucklehead duo The Whooliganz. (The other member of the group, Scott Caan, became a Hollywood actor on TV shows like Hawaii Five-0 and Entourage.) Mentored by Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs, The Alchemist -- who is only a passable rapper -- switched his focus to production, and worked with West Coast indie groups like Swollen Members and Dilated Peoples. He has since teamed up with Lil Wayne, Nas, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Maxwell and others, in addition to releasing three solo albums, including the upcoming Russian Roulette. But his deepest association has been with Mobb Deep and their extended Infamous Mobb family. In 2007, he produced Prodigy's classic Return of the Mac; he DJ'ed for Mobb Deep at Rock the Bells 2011.
Furthermore, in 2009, The Alchemist and rapper/producer Oh No formed Gangrene. It's an inspired pairing. Oh No favors the same kind of zany samples as his older brother, Madlib, while Alchemist uses '70s cop-funk to build his unrepentant thug raps; both indulge their love of hallucinogens. In January 2011, Gangrene released their second album, the critically acclaimed Vodka & Ayahuasca. Finally, just a few weeks ago, Alchemist released the beat tape Rapper's Best Friend 2: An Instrumental Series. Stocked with instrumentals from tracks he has produced for Cam'ron, Slaughterhouse and others, it's a bare-bones example of his decade-long explorations into soulful yet hard-edged "gangsta sh*t."