Everyone should be familiar with Alchemist’s prolific output in recent years, but Gangsta Grillz affiliate Willie The Kid has had a more subdued year despite his increased productivity. He’s already dropped two short projects this year, but his latest collaboration with Alchemist, Masterpiece Theatre, is some of 2013’s best music.
Willie’s got a way of emitting elegance without being condescending or haughty, rapping with a self-aware humility that balances the streets and the skybox. He radiates regality without losing his edge for discussing Oxycontin, floozies in jacuzzis, and Shabba Ranks dances. Every song showcases him threading a string of fluid phrases together in the same imagistic vein as featured brethren Roc Marciano and Action Bronson, who were both working on their own projects in Alchemist’s studio when Masterpiece Theatre was being recorded. The EP is brimming with picturesque rhymes like “I need mosaics on the vases, evasive, faces of Medusa what I’m used to, complacent” and “enhancements, handmade ceramics, antique standards, speaking Spanish, a patient man’s antics.” And that’s just one verse.
Behind the boards, Alchemist continues to prove that he’s flat out one of the best producers doing it right now. If Albert Einstein, 360 Waves, and his star-studded three-song EP with SSUR haven’t already convinced you, then Masterpiece Theatre seals the deal (and he’s got albums with Boldy James and Evidence slated for 2013 as well). The “Opening Credits” set the tone for the project with gold-tinged vintage horns and cinematic strings atop movie snippets reminiscent of Blaxploitation classics like Shaft or Willie Dynamite, according to Willie in a recent interview with NahRight. Tracks like “Gettysburg” and “Medusa” are laced with gravy-warm melodies and euphoric keys that could only be crafted at Alchemist’s legendary smoke-filled Rap Camp.
The EP as a whole treats details as the centerpiece, with Willie fine-tuning every syllable and Alchemist never wasting a moment as melancholy pianos and hypnotic vocal samples waft from one track to the next, giving the project a flowing cohesiveness from beginning to end. Each verse is like a mahogany staircase with plush velvet carpeting that leads you up to the majestic suite that is Alchemist’s kushed-out beat layer: One element needs the other for both to mesh perfectly. Laid-back luxury sneaks in on “Halal Tuna,” where Willie weaves internal rhymes about “Paraguay, guava nectars, couple carrots in the scepter, I’m so receptive”, while the mellow closer “Let The Money Stay” finds Willie dropping Boardwalk Empire references and rocking sandals like Jesus. Even Alchemist drops iron bars with a rare rap appearance on “Bad Mistake”.
The raps are impressive enough to demand instant rewinds, but Masterpiece Theatre is so efficiently thorough that you can keep it on repeat without getting tired of it. It’s another notch on Alchemist’s heavyweight belt as well as a stepping-stone for Willie The Kid to become one of the more prevalent rappers in the game.—Max Weinstein