Rollie Pemberton describes himself as a “student of the game” – a well-worn expression, but one that fits the young Canadian better than most. A one-time journalism student, Pemberton supplemented his education by penning rap album reviews for Stylus and Pitchfork, drawing upon his near-encyclopaedic knowledge of the genre while outlining his appreciation and criticisms of some of hip-hop’s modern greats. Even in conversation, he regularly compares and contrasts his own music against that of Jay-Z, Ghostface Killah and others, analysing his output like a hip-hop academic.
Alan Marman probably didn’t intend to be the invisible man of hip-hop; it’s just a symptom of a production style that has focused on shedding modern hip-hop of its pop leanings. As the Alchemist, his resume reads like a who’s who of East Coast hip-hop, with his bruising Bronx beats filling in the deep album track positions for greats like Nas, Guru, Mobb Deep, Kool G Rap and Big Pun. Still, despite his best efforts – solo records decorated with thuggish images of himself, his name spread across in large, imposing lettering, for example – appropriate recognition has eluded him. Fine hip-hop connoisseurs may give Alc his respect, but most still couldn’t pick him out of a crowd.