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The Whooliganz
Disciples of Boom
One of my favorite tales involves a man who constantly inhabits my top 5 greatest hip-hop producers list, the mighty Alchemist. Long before he was King of the Drama Loop, our man Al was representing in a whole ..
Disciples of Boom: The Whooliganz      by DJ VERB

Hollywood is a breeding ground...


Every hip-hop fan loves a little game of "where were they then?" Maybe it's my semi/sub-conscious desire to break into the hip-hop business, but I'm always fascinated to hear how my favorite artists got to where they are today, if only to gain some tips. One of my favorite tales involves a man who constantly inhabits my top 5 greatest hip-hop producers list, the mighty Alchemist. Long before he was King of the Drama Loop, our man Al was representing in a whole other element of hip-hop. It may not have been his most memorable achievement, but it set in motion a career marked by consistently stunning beats and street cred for days.

Although he might look (and be) like the hardest white boy on the block, Alchemist (Alan Maman to his mom) is from the ritzy streets of Beverly Hills, California. Like most well-off white kids in their teens, he and his friends gravitated to the hardcore sound of hip-hop as a way to rebel against the squareness of their suburban surroundings. While I can't speculate too much on how dude was livin' back then, he ran with Scott Caan, the son of famed actor James Caan, so the connections were obviously in place. Their other friends might have been content with staying out late, talking shit, and smoking weed, but Scott and Al wanted to rap, and rap they did, calling themselves the Whooliganz.

While doing their thing at an LA party in the early 90's, they were spotted by B-Real of Cypress Hill, who were, at the time, running Hip-hop on the strength of their classic first album. Whether B saw real talent in the duo, or was simply enticed by the novelty of two young, rapping white kids, we'll never know, but all the same he asked them to get down with the Soul Assassins crew, which included Cypress, House of Pain, and Funkdoobiest. Alchemist himself has said that the Assassins collective was the Roc-A-Fella of its day, and this was indeed was true. They may not have been stinking rich like Jigga, but they were some of the biggest names in hip-hop at the start of the decade.

For two freshmen in high school, this was a dream come true. After signing to Tommy Boy, they recorded an entire album, produced mostly by early-90's wunderkind T-Ray, with contributions from House of Pain's DJ Lethal and the Baka Boyz. The first single was "Put Your Handz Up," released in 1993 and produced by DJ Lethal. Lethal's beat sounds like he lifted it straight out of DJ Muggs' sampler (I've heard rumors that Muggs actually produced it), complete with dark upright bassline, dusty drums, and a high-pitched vocal cut-up on the chorus. Al (going by the name Mudfoot at the time) busts out lovely on the mic, coming with the most high-pitched, snot-nosed whine since Chi-Ali.

Despite the somewhat tame lyrical content, his rhymes and flows are quite decent. Caan, aka Mad Skills, doesn't sound as childish, but his lyrical skills aren't as strong. He fronts with the front-tied bandana in the video, but you can't sound that hard when you rhyme about how you "dipped outta class, when the bell ring." In addition to the original version, we get a remix from childhood friend, renowned producer, and fellow son-of-a-famous-man (in this case, Quincy Jones) QDIII. His production style smoothes the edges by adding jazzy organ chords and some angular, off-kilter horns. Also included is the b-side "Hit the Deck," a gritty, stripped-down affair featuring a guest shot from Assassins colleague Everlast. While it's now regarded as an underrated, golden-age banger, the single didn't really make much noise back then, even with the House of Pain/Cypress connection.

Based on that fact, as well as general shadiness of the label, the heads at Tommy Boy got cold feet and shelved the album permanently. The pissed-off suburbanite thing could have worked--hey, look at the Beastie Boys--but not with the hardcore beats Scott and Al were given. Had they been more pop, they could have gone the way of Kriss Kross, who had just crossed over the year before. But unfortunately, this single was aimed at underground heads, who no doubt found it hard to stomach their 90210 status. The Beastie Boys were able to brand themselves as artsy iconoclasts, but the Whooliganz were too young and green to be seen as anything more than a couple of rich kids trying to be down.

It was far from the end for the Whooliganz, however. Scott chose to follow in his father's footsteps and pursue acting. You may remember his turns in Ocean's Eleven and Boiler Room. And we all know what happened to Al. After the Whooliganz got shut down, he began to toy with an ASR he had bought with his advance money. Muggs noticed the work he was putting in and invited him by the lab. The two started making beats together, which led to a couple Alchemist ghost-productions on Cypress' Temples of Boom. He then hooked up with another childhood friend, nicknamed Evidence, and produced a series of heaters for Ev's new group, Dilated Peoples, firmly establishing his hard-edged, decidedly non-West Coast sound in the process.

Soon after that, Muggs introduced him to Mobb Deep, who respected both Al's gangsta and his dark, uncompromising beats. After lacing the Mobb with a couple of classics, it was on, and Al dropped heat for everyone from Fat Joe to Snoop, eventually releasing the excellent 1st Infantry, his debut solo album. Not only did he produce the entire joint, but he also picked up the mic for a couple of songs, perhaps as a tribute to his brief career, which had ended 11 years earlier. It just goes to show that if you've truly got it, you've got it.

As for the single, it's worth digging out not just for the comedic, oh-shit-that's-Alchemist value, but for the hard-hitting flavor that makes it a perfect match for hardcore classics like Lords of the Underground's "Psycho" or the Fu-Schnickens "True Fu-Shnick." Plus there's an acappella. I smell mashup!


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