Boldy James & Alchemist Bring The Best Out Of Each Other On Their New Album (Audio)
It has been over a decade since Boldy James first debuted his raps for the world to hear. In the blog era, Boldy James released Trapper’s Alley: Pros & Cons in 2011 with illRoots. The mixtape showed off the cold life of a drug dealer (see the obvious “I Sold Dope All My Life,” for reference) and boasted an impressive 28 tracks that carried with them the harsh realities of drug pushing in the streets of Motown. It was a few years later when Boldy caught the attention of Nas, who eventually released My 1st Chemistry Set on Mass Appeal.
The project was well-received, albeit ephemeral amid Alchemist’s incredible collaboration run at the time (No Idols with Domo Genesis, Rare Chandeliers with Action Bronson, a handful of releases alongside rapper Oh No as the duo Gangrene). Still, Boldy James garnered the traction he needed to make a name for himself as a vivid storyteller, detailing his life as a brutal dope pusher and the hardships that came with it. Ironically, Boldy James’ initial start came from cousin Chuck Inglish of The Cool Kids before his 2011 mixtape ever dropped. Boldy found a family bond with The Cool Kids, and rappers Asher Roth and King Chip by association, linking up with the laid back pioneers on songs like “Tires,” “BBQ Wings,” “Fat Raps,” and “Golden Midas.”
Last year, The Alchemist dropped a three-track EP titled Layups, alongside The Cool Kids, including two songs with Boldy James. The short EP should’ve served as a harbinger for The Alchemist and Boldy James’ latest release, which released Friday (February 7), The Price Of Tea In China (embedded as a video playlist below):
The Price Of Tea In China, a new 12-track project, shows Boldy James once again reconnecting with the grimy sounds of Alchemist to deliver the most cold-hearted street raps. This is James curb-serving at his most grimacing. The album’s intro, “Carruth,” shows just how confessional and real Boldy James can get, as he looks back at his time serving fiends, and recounts his personal experiences with friends who got caught up in the system. He raps: “I used to get confused, choosing my battles wisely / I had to pick and choose / My friends came and went, but most of them was murder victims / Dead before 20 or caught a frame and had to serve a sentence / Free my n*gga Raymond, realest n*gga from the Murder Mitten / Stood tall, hit a ni**a for ten 36’s / All he wanted to do was ball, and spread the rock around / Built my foundation on solid ground / Always in and out of town / Waking up out of my sleep to them chopper round.” These aren’t fairy tales that take place in Detroit. They’re believable experiences that read like journal entries.
James isn’t not alone in his activities, either. On “Scrape The Bowl,” Boldy James enlists the help of Griselda’s Benny The Butcher to detail the rugged lifestyles of a dealer. “From Detroit to Buffalo, we love to smuggle blow,” Boldy claims over a twinkling, bare piano loop. James takes the first verse to paint a vivid picture of his jailed dope-boys, and his continued hustle to work while they’re locked up: “I just shot a kite to bro, he put me on a paper route / Now we on the road, 36 O’s wrapped up in paper towels / My witness ain’t show up to court, the judge, he had to weigh the trial / They say I got a morbid sense of humor, but that made me smile / Shout out to my shooter, when he drill you, that’s a flagrant foul / Just put in for his appeal, he told me it might take a while / Told him, ‘Ain’t sh*t but some time, just make sure that you make it count / And when you get back out that b*tch, don’t let these ni**as take you out.'” Benny takes the second verse to depict his own technique: “We hustlers, prices double up when it land in New York / Wait, name a clique with a rep substantial as ours / And the work so good, all the fiends compare you to God / Dope shooters walk my block like it’s the Land of the Lost / I gave back to the ghetto, they never hand you awards / Cool, this for the homies that’s dead, ain’t in the yard / All the road trips to cop work what got my stamina strong.”
On “Grey October,” Boldy raps with purpose, reserved in his vocals and rapping as if talking over Alchemist’s three-note bass melody. It’s a somber mood, as James raps: “I keep it funky with my folkers, huntin’ wit’ my poachers / Slumpin’ wit’ the vultures, stockpilin’ with the brokers / Baseline it to them smokers; Tony, we ain’t the only dopers / Servin’ all these pots, I move, f*ckin’ up the culture / Monkey nuts in that Corolla, ride foreign but it’s stolen / Gone off that doulja, runnin’ from the rollers.” Evidence raps next, delivering some of the coldest bars on the project: “I don’t run away from danger, I’m better running towards it / All my words are just the letter, show the swords and I enforceth / Missing all players when I hit the streets but Evi’ didn’t forfeit / Rising from the scorched earth, I roll it up and torch it / Two different careers like I’m two different people / Two different years – one life, no sequel / Trip, you inspired or you desperate / You either full or you desolate.”
Alchemist and Boldy connect like never before on The Price Of Tea In China, and it’s a bond that undoubtedly reminds us of Alchemist’s multi-album run with the late Prodigy. With Boldy James’ distinctly cold delivery, impeccable way of working detail into every rhyme, and features by Vince Staples, Evidence, Freddie Gibbs and Benny the Butcher, The Price Of Tea In China already stands confidently as one of the young year’s most memorable releases.
#BonusBeat: Boldy James & Alchemist’s “Scrape The Bowl” video, featuring Benny The Butcher: