Is there any doubt that the Alchemist is the hardest working producer in hip-hop right now? He’s pumping out albums like the Atlanta Police Department does arrest warrants for Gucci Mane. After making albums with Domo Genesis, Action Bronson, Curren$y and Oh No, unfortunately further delaying the much-anticipated Step Brothers project, Alchemist has reunited with his “Junkyard Fight Scene” collaborators Planet Asia, Tristate, and Killer Ben, all of whom form Durag Dynasty. Their album, 360 Waves, is the latest in a surge in uses of the term “wave/wavy,” from the rise of French Montana to the life-altering Lil Mason 1000 videos (PROTECT LIL MASON) and my Call of Duty clan tag.
While this album is in a completely separate lane than the Max B movement, it’s filled with gritty tough talk that lends itself to the hazy funk and random vocal sampling sound that Alchemist cultivated while working as part of Gangrene. Think Gutter Water with the acid trips being swapped out for beatdowns. 360 Waves is no-frills, hardcore hip-hop filled with plentiful guns-for-the-haters rhymes, and not much else. Prodigy is a no-brainer guest appearance on “Fish Meat” given his lengthy history with Alchemist and affinity for this brand of rap music that he made his bones in. But stick to what you know, right?
Alchemist does his best to keep 360 Waves moving and engaging, but the assembled emcees are making him do it while dragging pianos. Planet Asia is an accomplished MC with a lot of excellent material, but at times Tristate and Killer Ben have the charisma of a desk chair. Some of this can be traced to the production; because of their generally cold, rugged deliveries, they can’t match the loud and triumphant “Goon Call” or the funky “Spiral Event”. The sympathetic guitar on “Tender Greens” undermines the seriousness of Durag Dynasty’s rhymes about beating you for your sneakers; it would work much better for a “back in the day” or “I love my momma” joint. At times, it seems they’re rapping on an Alchemist beat just to say they are, with no regard for compatibility between the lyrics and the beat.
The beats and the rhymes are both solid-to-good, but Durag Dynasty’s flows are suited for darker, more subdued production found on the simple bass-guitar-and-drum-loop “Fish Meat” and the icy “Yasir Arafat”, the album’s main standouts. In addition to those, Alchemist would have served Durag Dynasty well if he had given them the “Sylvester Lundgren” beat that went to Action Bronson instead. The production on 360 Waves is actually very similar to Rare Chandeliers, but Durag Dynasty can’t hold a candle to Bronsolino’s charisma, which is why Rare Chandeliers could get played a few months from now while 360 Waves won’t.