Boldy James is a 38-year-old rapper from Detroit, Michigan. Out of all the rappers who have dominated 2020, there have been few better than him due to his trifecta of acclaimed collaborations in The Alchemist’s The Price Of Tea In China, Sterling Toles’s Manager on McNichols, and Jay Versace’s The Versace Tape. Last weekend, the 38-year-old released his fourth LP this year, Real Bad Boldy. With production from Los Angeles producer Real Bad Man, will Boldy James be able to end off the year stronger than ever?
For Boldy James, his consistent ability to reinvent himself and stay passionate has to come so fluently due to his frequent switch in producers. Here, Real Bad Man doesn’t steer away too much from the Detroit rapper’s other 2020 releases formula but does enough to make things feel exciting and refreshing. His ear for samples is honestly remarkable as we see him take elements as annoying as distorted synthesizers and turn them into the memorable quality that makes “Light Bill” so special. His menacing instrumentals only up the tension of Boldy James’s songwriting as he covers everything from his street credit to mental demons. Still, his faint delivery and ghostly presence are more prominent than ever, which may be a problem to some. The intro, “Real Bad Boldy,” was a definite standout in this section as between the chopped up vocal sample and the Griselda affiliates illusive lyrics about a prison sentence, there are loads to unfold. Another component that upped the quality of this portion comes in the art of collaborating. With verses from Stove God Cooks, Meyhem Lauren, and Rochester veteran Eto, Boldy is challenged by some of the underground’s fiercest MC’s to bring his A-game. Over an angelic church organ loop, “Failed Attempt” becomes one of the best pictures Boldy James has painted all year as the glorious soundscape adds so much suspense to this chilling tale that showcases the dangers of selling drugs. Rounding out this section, “Thousand Pills” and “Little Vicious” both thrive due to their memorizing sonic patterns and challenging lyrical tangents. Although it may feel dull to some expecting a bigger step forward for Boldy James in both his demeanor and songwriting, the first half of the record does an excellent job at welcoming the listener to the newest chapter of his artistic journey.
Cutting down the number of guest appearances, Boldy and Bad Man’s chemistry reaches new heights in the retrospective second half. Both bounce easily off one another, and as the two get more familiar with each other, their binding unification only becomes more prominent. “On Ten” perfectly highlights what to expect going forward as, despite James’s delivery getting somewhat repetitive, his quicker paced flow moves seamlessly with the glitchy instrumental. Out of all the profusely sculpted instrumentals, “Held Me Down” is the record’s clear sonic standout as the chopped up soul vocal is masterfully sped up and laid out over raw tribal bongo patterns for an experience that’s emotionally touching and fitting to the narrative. This niche to craft these expressive minimalistic loops is only further displayed as the album concludes with moments like “Good Foot”. On the note of the previously stated song, it’s the only track here that comes with features, and the assisted vocals from Rigz are solid, but the other guest, Mooch, pretty much turns out to be a store brand version of Westside Gunn. When it comes to Boldy James on this closing leg, his personality seems to have really developed as cuts like “Street Sh*t” showcase his writing with more depth and thought than ever. With all of these elements culminating together, the bittersweet “Champion” wraps up this short but sweet experience with a jazzy instrumental and a reflective verse from Boldy where he ties together all of the previously stated coke-rap tales. While nothing truly alters in the creativity department, the improvements in the pen game of Boldy and Bad Man’s sonicality is something to admire.
In conclusion, Real Bad Boldy marks the fourth successful album from Boldy James this year. While his coke bars are feeling a little repetitive at this point, his small artistic improvements on top of a masterful score make this experience feel different enough from the rest of his entries. Going forward, I hope Boldy James can bring this hot streak into 2021 because if he can keep collaborating and growing the way he is, he will reach the top of the game in no time.
- Boldy’s minor artistic improvements spice things up
- Big Bad Man’s production is top-notch minimalism
- Good features
- In-depth stories are heartfelt and well delivered
- Gets repetitive at times
- Nothing never before seen is happeing