Finding The GOAT Producer: Alchemist vs. RZA. Who Is Better?
“Finding the GOAT Producer,” the third installment of Ambrosia For Heads’s annual battle series features Hip-Hop’s greatest producers vying for the #1 spot. Thirty producers were pre-selected by a panel of experts, and two slots will be reserved for wild-card entries, including the possibility for write-in candidates, to ensure no deserving beat maker is neglected. The contest consists of six rounds, NCAA basketball-tournament style, commencing with the Top 32, then the Sweet 16 and so on, until one winner is determined. For each battle, two producers (or collective of producers, e.g. The Neptunes) are pitted against one another to determine which one advances to the next round.
Similar to the presentations in “Finding the GOAT MC” and “Finding the GOAT Album,” for each battle there is editorial about each producer that contextualizes the match-up, as well as sample songs, to help voters in their consideration. There is also a poll in which votes are cast, and readers are able to see the % differential in votes, real-time. Though there also will be an enormous amount of debate in comments, on social media, in barbershops and back rooms, which we encourage, only votes cast in the official ballot count. In prior “Finding the GOAT” battles, just a handful of votes often decided the results, in early and late rounds. So while we want everybody to talk about it, be about it too, with that vote that counts.
Student battles teacher in Round 2. While RZA never exactly mentored Alchemist, the two producer/MCs are each responsible for keeping Hip-Hop sounding grimy since the ’90s. Both Soul Assassins affiliates, these beat creators have consistently fed the underground and the mainstream at the same time, charting hit singles without compromising their rugged sample styles. Moreover, both The Abbott and Al have been dynamic in their ability to tailor creations to an array artists and pet side projects. Having each contributed to celebrated works like Ghostface Killah’s Bulletproof Wallets and Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris, these two sound great side-by-side. Despite his early ’90s head-start, RZA’s output has slowed down immensely in recent years. Meanwhile, Alchemist has only ramped up, and spread his sound around, through Grammy-nominated and severely slept-on circles. This dusty battle of beat machine Jedis may be hard fought, so make sure to get your opinion counted through a vote.
Defeated Mannie Fresh in Round 1 (74% to 26%)
Mentored by Havoc and DJ Muggs, Alchemist set a gold standard young in his career. The onetime co-founder of the Whooliganz relocated from Southern California to New York City in the late ’90s. There, he started lacing Mobb Deep, Dilated Peoples, and Casual with dusty loops and knocking drums. That foundation attracted Jadakiss, Nas, and Cam’ron to Alan The Chemist’s science of sound. Like DJ Premier and Dr. Dre, Alan Maman is devoted to the underground and emerging talent, as much as he is placing singles with Rap’s A-list. Moreover, in recent years, the Venice, California-based producer’s output has increased to ramming speed. The Shady Records DJ/producer has overseen whole projects with his Gangrene and Stepbrothers groups, in addition to Action Bronson, Durag Dynasty, and a Havoc project. As much as any producer in today’s Hip-Hop climate, ALC’s name on a project can sell it, and make it stand taller in a crowded field.
Defeated Havoc in Round 1 (83% to 17%)
RZA’s production evolved from his rapping. The Abbott of the Wu-Tang Clan applied his DJ fundamentals to an off-kilter style that would forever change Hip-Hop. Brooklyn, New York’s Bobby Diggs (aka Bobby Digital) celebrated urgency, Funk, and imperfection. Just as he kept the sniffles and gasps of Method Man and Ghostface Killah in the vocals he recorded, RZA (at his best) basked in distortions and filthy drums. Out of that, the artist (who also co-founded Gravediggaz) would concoct sonic canvases that wore stains like hunger pains. The pulsating drums of a Raekwon solo outing punch like an alleyway beat-down, while Underdog, Janet Jackson, The Dramatics, Joe Tex, and other elements aligned to make a crew sound as menacing as a swarm of killer bees. In time, beyond his collective, Diggs applied his formula for Biggie, Cypress Hill, Scientifik, and Big Pun. While RZA’s style and output has shifted greatly in the last 20 years, The Abbott still picks his spots. Even with acting, directing, and a host of off-shots, RZA has collaboratively injected his dirt into Kanye West’s and Jay Z’s polished repertoires in the 2010s. Although the producer seeks samples featuring horns, Soul vocals, and ominous synths, RZA remarried Hip-Hop to its percussion roots. Through “RZArecting” programming and live playing, this producer’s drums were the sturdy handrails on his journey through the smoky abyss.
So who is the better producer? Make sure you vote above.