When Dilated Peoples had its 2001, Alchemist-produced song “Live On Stage” licensed in the 2008 film Step Brothers movie starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, Dilated Peoples member Evidence and the Alchemist had a realization.
By that point, Evidence had traveled the world, released a string of acclaimed albums with Dilated Peoples and as a solo artist, and had become a respected producer helming beats for Kanye West, Defari and Planet Asia, among others. For his part, The Alchemist had become one of rap’s triple threats, producing for Mobb Deep, Nas and Jadakiss, among others. The Alchemist was also an accomplished rapper and Eminem’s DJ.
While they were building their respective careers, Evidence and The Alchemist had worked together regularly collaborating on Dilated Peoples albums, Evidence’s solo material and The Alchemist’s releases. So as they watched Step Brothers, Evidence and The Alchemist found common threads between their relationship and that of Ferrell’s and Reilly’s characters. “The dynamic of our relationship is similar in a lot of ways,” Evidence explains. “We grew up together, so it’s kinda like we’re brothers. It’s more than a friend thing.”
The idea for a full-blown Step Brothers project was born. As the pair continued collaborating, they began labeling themselves as Step Brothers when they would record, as noted on Evidence’s The Layover EP. The pair then decided it was time to record an album together. “We had worked together on different things over the years, but I had never had his undivided attention,” The Alchemist says. “I think he felt that same way about me. We’re always working on a bunch of stuff, but for a few weeks, we mentally put on the helmet for Step Brothers.”
Given that they had grown up together, Evidence and The Alchemist adopted a relaxed, loose vibe while they were recording. Top-tier beats and rhymes and beats arrived in quick succession, a byproduct of their familiarity with one another. While working on their material, they chose Lord Steppington as the title for their album after a line Alchemist dropped on Gangrene’s “Dark Shades.” “It sounded kind of royal,” Evidence says. As for the music, Evidence and Alchemist deliver lyric-driven, punchline-heavy and intricate rhymes throughout Lord Steppington. Over Alchemist’s grimy, eerie beat, the pair rips through raucous rhymes on “Step Masters.” “It’s got a heavy drum beat,” Evidence says. “It’s just a hard beat, hard rhymes with just an old school kind of chorus. It’s something we could represent with coming out the gate.”
What Evidence watches served as the inspiration for “Byron G,” a song that features Domo Genesis & The Whooliganz (The Alchemist’s former partner-in-rhyme Mad Skillz, aka actor Scott Caan). As Evidence was working on beats, he happened across a brazen Kanye West award show acceptance speech, which serves as the intro for “Bryon G.” “I was super high watching YouTubes and I saw that Kanye speech and I was dying laughing on the floor,” Evidence says of the song, the only Lord Steppington song Alchemist did not produce. “It was hilarious. Hit acceptance speeches, they’re something you can just say you’re going to do, just watch them on YouTube. They’re good cinema.”
Known for his cinematic beats, The Alchemist delivers one of his most impressive production pieces on “Swimteam Rastas.” Inspired by some of DJ Premier’s most imaginative work, The Alchemist wanted to make his own song where the beat changed several times, a rapping obstacle course of sorts. “Those DJ Premier songs were so dope to me as a kid,” The Alchemist says. “That was so exciting to me. It was like walking into different rooms as the camera kept rolling.” “Swimteam Rastas” clocks in at nearly five-and-a-half minutes and features three distinct beats. It’s a crowning aural and lyrical exercise for Alchemist, who thrives on creativity. “He’s into games,” Evidence says. “Everything’s a game to him. Writing a verse to him is like a creative project. Everything’s like a Rubik’s Cube to him. I think he enjoys the challenge of it all.”
Given their chemistry, Step Brothers found recording material for Step Brothers natural. It was also easy to determine who they would feature on Lord Steppington: whoever happened to be at The Alchemist’s house while they were recording appeared on the LP. “There was no mailing it out,” Evidence says. “Whoever’s on the song was whoever was over at Al’s those days. If they’re on it, they were physically there. It adds a lot doing it that way. There’s a sense of camaraderie there. It’s fun to be around people and bounce ideas off them.”
The Lord Steppington songs ooze with a natural aesthetic that provides plenty of insight into who Evidence and Alchemist are without selling you on their personas. “You get a real sense of who we are,” Evidence says. “We’re giving you our personality without overtly giving it to you. It’s hard to do that and the only way you can do that is by loving what you’re doing, being down with the person you’re being in the room with. If I were to hear this album, I’d be like, ‘I’d want to hang out with these guys. It seems like they have a lot of fun, like they’re wilding. They’re definitely innovative.’ It seems interesting, not the run-of-the-mill dish.”
Growing up, Evidence and Alchemist were hardly run-of-the-mill. Infatuated with rap, the two ran the streets of Southern California and soon found themselves putting rap and the making of rap above virtually everything else. “We used to ditch school and go lay raps on beats,” Evidence recalls. “That’s what this Step Brothers album is a continuation of.” Now as the Step Brothers, Evidence and Alchemist deliver another stellar musical achievement. “I want people to feel the looseness of it, the fun of it,” Evidence says. Adds The Alchemist: “It was easy. Me and Ev have been doing music since high school. In addition to being a friend of mine, he’s one of my favorite rappers. We had always toyed around with me doing a whole album with him, or producing for him. Making this album was like doing layups.”