By Nick Sligh
Welcome to “New Music with Nick.” In this column, I will be reviewing some of the most notable new album releases across various genres, focusing on hip-hop, R&B and pop music. Join me in exploring the ever-shifting landscape of the streaming era.
Boldy James and The Alchemist: “Bo Jackson” (Aug. 13, 2021)
Just over a year after their 2020 collab album “The Price of Tea in China,” rapper and producer duo Boldy James & The Alchemist have already returned with another joint effort in “Bo Jackson.” Both artists came into the release with some of the greatest momentum of their careers.
Expectations were very high but ultimately met by the duo with ease. It’s simply phenomenal hip-hop, and I’m not surprised at all to see such a great final result. Knowing anything about the producer and rapper in question here signals the potential; their chemistry is undeniable, with Boldy fitting every beat with just the right persona and skillset.
Only a couple of tracks fall short of being great, and thus the project as a whole stays consistently strong. Boldly and The Alchemist effortlessly float through street tales with a consistent emotional vigor. Whether it is through jazz-influenced loops, soul-samples or psychedelic beats, both excel in their areas of expertise, executing the album with undeniable passion.
“Double Hockey Sticks,” the album’s intro, opens the project with a menacing narrative and a perfectly executed beat switch, leading to one of the most thrilling and well-executed verses of the entire project. Shortly after, one of the best features of the album by Benny the Butcher combines with some of The Alchemist’s production skills to create “Brickmile to Montana,” a standout track on the album. “Flight Risk” provides another incredibly strong and dark track on a minimalist but wonderful Alchemist sample.
The album’s versatility is a large part of what makes it special; there is much more here than just hard-hitting music. Beautiful soul samples and jazzy production are fused with heartfelt narrative at several points, providing a depth of character and emotion that heighten the potency of all of the tracks. “Diamond Dallas” and “Illegal Search and Seizure” portray vivid crime narratives with a level of authenticity that is hard to find. Boldy has always had a knack for portraying emotion through his deliveries without anything ever feeling forced or artificial.
Boldy’s delivery never falters. His raw honesty in every story is genuinely captivating, despite his often monotone delivery. When rapping at such a high level, the music is sonically pleasing enough on its own as a complement to The Alchemist’s production. The lyricism and the effortless nature with which Boldy paints vivid tales are what set the album apart to make it great.
The success of the current run that both artists are on cannot be understated. Boldy has improved a great deal over the last few years. His lyricism is the best that it has ever been, and the storytelling capabilities blend perfectly with the grimy and elaborate production of The Alchemist. Few artists have been as prolific as Boldy has been over the last two years. The same goes with The Alchemist. With such a storied legacy of production, The Alchemist has little left to prove at this point, but just keeps providing some of hip-hop’s greatest beat selections that seem to always be in sync with his collaborator’s visions.
Grimy rap has made a glorious comeback over just the last couple of years, and Boldy deserves his flowers with the best of them. This duo has developed a partnership that has delivered some of the best projects in recent memory. Hip-hop is in a better place with these two working together, and we can only hope that there are more collaborations to come between these two artists.
Favorite Songs: “Brickmile to Montana,” “Double Hockey Sticks,” “Illegal Search and Seizure,” “Flight Risk,” “Diamond Dallas”
Album Score: 87/100
Check out this Spotify playlist, “Best Songs of 2020” @nicholassligh, and like it to follow along with some of some of my favorite songs of 2021 as the year progresses!