In the video for their single, "Step Masters," Alchemist and Evidence compete in contests such as bowling and "longest mouthwash." As engaging as the video is, the two veteran West Coast rapper/producers work better in tandem than against each other. Coming together as the Step Brothers, they have released a collaboration album called Lord Steppington. It features raw rhymes over aggressive, experimental Alchemist production (with the exception of "Byron G," which was produced by Evidence).
Both Alchemist and Evidence have had illustrious careers as rappers and producers while traveling down very different paths. Alchemist has emerged as one of the premier producers through his work with Mobb Deep, Jadakiss, and Nas. His output has remained prolific, as he released four albums as a producer last year; 360 Waves with Durag Dynasty, Albert Einstein with Prodigy, My First Chemistry Set with Boldy James, and the assorted Cutting Room Floor 3. Meanwhile, Evidence got his start with the underground rap group Dilated Peoples. After releasing four albums with the group, he embarked on a solo career that has included his most recent album, 2011's Cats & Dogs.
We caught up with Alchemist and Evidence in their hotel room in NYC and talked about working with actor Scott Caan (who was previously in a rap group with Alchemist), their strict "no-fuckboys" policy, and how the beef between Dilated Peoples and Eminem came to an end...
When did you guys actually finish this album? Why was there a delay between finishing it and putting it out?
Evidence: We finished the album probably 6-8 months ago. We could have put out the record regularly, but we wanted to have a very different specialty packaging. It’s a velvet album, with raised gold lettering. It just took a little long to physically make it, which is why it’s confusing. We’re not on a label—it’s not like they sent us back to go make a hit record. [Laughs.]
Alchemist: The evil executives over at Rhymesayers... [Laughs.]
E: It wasn’t like that. We could have came out digital on whatever the first date was, but we didn’t have the retail project because it just wasn’t manufactured yet. I feel like we deserve it. We waited a long time and if the fans are riding, they can wait an extra month, it isn’t like we threw some crazy delay at them.
But people have been talking about the album for a long time so people have been anticipating it. But we never made a press release saying we were an official group. I was fortunate enough to get featured on [Alchemist’s] stuff, and when I had him on one of my joints, I just put Step Brothers instead of putting "featuring Alchemist." That’s how it got birthed.
How important is the physical copy?
E: You look at it and you tell me. I know the world of physical might be dying, it’s the reality of where we are in 2014, but if you give people extra incentive to buy it for a reason, you show how much you care about it, I think they will too. You buy this for the same price as you buy a regular CD. So it’s like we’re taking the loss on the financial, not you, you know what I mean?
A: We’re suffering too. We’re eating less food.
E: So if you’re cold, you can buy six of these and drape them down your arm and probably stay warm, or put one of these on your chest and this would block the wind.
So you guys brought Scott Caan back to the studio for this album. Did you write his raps this time around?
A: Fuck no.
What was that like, bringing him back into the studio?
A: It was amazing.
Was it planned?
E: It was a master plan. There are plans and then there are master plans. This was written on a tablet, like Moses. He scribed it in cement, a cement tablet with a fucking butcher knife. It didn’t really work that good but you can still see the imprint.
I know the world of physical might be dying, but if you give people extra incentive to buy it for a reason, you show how much you care about it, I think they will too. - Evidence
A: He’s just a multi-talented guy. And he has more rhythm and style now when he rhymes than he did when we were kids. I don’t know what the hell happened. I guess a lot of money, living large…
E: And many Hawaiian nights with fucking exotic queen palm trees staring at him. [Laughs.]
A: When you have a dog in the front seat of your car, your pick-up truck, and you just drive with no shoes and go surfing everyday...
E: When you’re really rich and drive a bad car on purpose, that’s when you’re killing it in my opinion. [Laughs.] I could have anything, but I’m going to drive this pick-up with my dog in the front and we’re going to go surfing. I think he found the good life and he’s comfortable where he’s at. He’s not afraid to show what he got written in his fucking tablet. Tablets are dangerous, you got to respect the tablet.
A: He’s the best actor that raps.
E: Yeah, that’s for sure.
A: How about that?
E: There is no better rapping actor. Well Nas acts now but...
A: I don’t care. Nas rapped first.
E: That’s true.
A: Scott’s didn’t rap first.
E: But Scott did rap first.
A: He did, that’s crazy. [Laughs.] Well, he’s my favorite actor who raps, put it that way.
Fair enough. For the video, you guys were competing with each other. In real life, how competitive are you?
E: You notice we’re both rolling joints right now at the same time. That should answer your question for you. [Laughs.]
A: I always beat him so much in everything that I’m just trying to compete with other people now.
Who are you trying to compete with?
A: I dunno. You want to compete at something? What’s good? [Laughs.]
E: He keeps saying that, but you notice that he lost most of the events in the video, so it’s comfortable for him to say that and I’ll respect it, but the reality is a little different.
Alright. Now when these kids come into the studio has there ever been a time when somebody tried to get into the booth who wasn’t really that good and you had to kick him out?
E: I’ve seen Alchemist do it, it wasn’t pretty.
A: Yeah, I get a little violent.
E: He doesn’t like people who are not ready in the booth. Physical steam comes out of him…
A: I have a short man’s complex. It’s usually tame but when that happens, then I just fucking dumb out and just start, I think I’m like...
E: He’ll pull you aside and sit you down and try to give you a life lesson.
A: I turn into a Joe Pesci-type character.
E: “Am I fucking here to make beats and just entertain you? [Laughs.] Are you entertained with my beat? Or will you fucking rap?”
Now, is that for people who aren’t ready or people who aren’t good?
E: Nobody steps in there [that isn’t good]. He don’t let anybody in.
A: Nobody steps in there who’s not good.
We have a strict no-f**kboy policy. - Alchemist
E: He’s got one of those scanners, like a metal detector, but it’s like a “not-good” scanner. [Makes scanning noise.] “Oh, not good. Get the fuck out.”
A: We have a strict no-fuckboy policy.
E: No fuckboys.
A: No fuckboys.
But a lot of people…
A: No fuckboys though.
E: What's your definition of a fuckboy?
I don’t really have a definition of a fuckboy.
A: None of those type of characters, no fuckboys. We have a circle with a line through it on the wall with the word fuckboy… [Laughs.]
E: In the booth.
A: So, if you think about being a fuckboy on the mic, man, you’re going to have a bad day.
So is the studio exclusive for just rappers, not necessarily entourages?
A: Pretty much the people who are in the studio usually do something. There’s no black couch where you can veg out. There’s not even a lounge, so if you’re there, you got to do something. You got to take the trash out if you’re not doing something. Even if you bring the drugs, you’re also being active, but there’s not too many people who just linger. I probably wouldn’t bring a girl to the studio. You can, it’s happened, but I don’t know, it’s probably not the environment for her.
E: They just sit there and get bored.
A: Or they’ll see other naked women and think that shit’s disgusting.
So in that way it’s different from Mac Miller’s studio.
A: Mac’s studio is dope. He has a real zen, black light vibe going on in his studio, it’s dope. There’s bean bags, I actually like working up there. I know Earl likes working over there too, it’s a dope vibe. Everybody has their own formulas, they have their studio environment.
Now you’ve obviously been Eminem’s DJ for a while, but you haven’t done a record with him. How come that hasn’t happened yet?
A: I would love to say that it’s somebody’s fault other than mine. But I just haven’t come with the right beat. We go on the road, he’s always checking for me, but I think I just have to bring the right thing to the team. I think when the time is right, if I make something—it’s on me.
People forget, Eminem and Dilated Peoples had beef. How did it get squashed?
E: Yeah, it’s been so long. Rest in peace to Proof, that ended six months after he passed. There was no beef, it was just all past stuff. I lived nine lives, that was number seven. [Laughs.] Proof came on our bus in Detroit, we all had drinks with Hex Murda and everybody at that time, and everything was squashed. Denaun [Mr. Porter] is a great human. I know the whole camp, from Paul Rosenberg on. I haven’t ever really got to chill with Eminem but if it did happen, I’d show respect.
Fair enough. When you guys were coming out, there weren’t really that many white rappers. And then over the years, that has dramatically changed obviously. How do you guys feel about that evolution?
E: It’s only natural, it was going to happen.
A: I feel like everybody has to send their check to the Beastie Boys. I know I feel indebted to them. They made me think that I could do it.
I feel like every [white rapper] has to send their check to the Beastie Boys. I know I feel indebted to them. - Alchemist
E: Anthony Kiedis was fucking rapping. You know what I’m saying? It’s been happening for a long time, it’s just something that’s really highly marketable right now. If there’s an audience for your words, it really doesn’t matter what color you are. Everybody respects success, skill is a different thing. Some people have it, some use it differently, but I think a lot of people who are doing well are doing well for a reason. It’s not just a label throwing a million dollars at the wall, they’re actually connecting with people.
Definitely. Now, with this album, what are your goals with it, if any?
A: I just to get the album out, to get the most ears and eyes. I want people that don’t like my beats, that already know me and don’t like me to hear this. And I want to anger people that want me to use more snares and drums. [Laughs.]
I want to anger people who expect something that I’ve done in the past, because I’m just that type. I’ll probably destroy something before I build it. I’m just a jerk like that. So that’s my goal, just to make people upset for a brief moment. [Laughs.]
E: My goal with this record is for people to hear it live. I think we’re really good live. That’s for people to decide but I feel comfortable getting up there and doing it. I think with this record, you’re talking about Beastie Boys or whatever, this record definitely has this, I don’t think it’s easy listening.
Some of the stuff he’s [Alchemist] made, two minutes in, things happen and four minutes, in things happen. You got to pay attention There’s subtle nuances going through the record where on the third or fourth listen, things start popping on the left side. I think when I can bring that to a stage, people can see it live, it’ll all come together.
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