Once upon a time The Alchemist was a teenaged rapper alongside now-famous actor Scott Caan (in The Whooliganz); today he stands as one of the most sought-after producers in hip-hop. Al’s latest instrumental release, Rapper’s Best Friend, shows exactly why Mobb Deep and Jadakiss keep coming back to him for beats. Whether he’s dropping chipmunk soul (“Stuck to U”) or hardcore boom-bap (“Gangster Banger”), The Alchemist has the dexterity to make hip-hop that’s bold and dramatic but never overpowering. These aren’t just used and unused instrumentals-they’re compositions that can be enjoyed by MCs, DJs, and everyday hip-hop listeners alike.