Review: Boldy James, The Alchemist – Bo Jackson

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80%
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Excellent

Both Boldy James and The Alchemist offer some of their finest work on their latest collaboration.

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Both Boldy James and his two-time album collaborator The Alchemist have been putting in insane amounts of work to their hip-hop craft over the last two years. Boldy James has managed to dominate his way into the position of a very highly respected MC by managing five records (each with a host of features and producers) since February last year. It’s a little reminiscent of the approach that BROCKHAMPTON (always termed rap’s first boy band, as if there weren’t many preceding them) took with their SATURATION trilogy, dropping three albums in a short space of time in an attempt to flood the music industry with a high amount of strong work at once. BROCKHAMPTON seem to have lost their way since, so here is hoping that Boldy James doesn’t follow suit.

Meanwhile, the more established artist on this project – esteemed underground producer favourite The Alchemist – has added a ridiculous amount of credit to his name within the last year too. Alfredo (made with the fantastic Freddie Gibbs) saw his name become one of the biggest in hip-hop production, Haram (made with Armand Hammer, a group consisting of billy woods and Elucid) and his most recent EP titled This Thing of Ours which featured some of underground hip-hop’s biggest stars with Earl Sweatshirt, Navy Blue and Pink Siifu have all meant that hip-hop notoriety has been growing in masses for the unique beat-maker.

So it seems like the perfect time for a new collaboration between the two, seeing as it was their prior collaboration which came just before the huge boom in both of their careers. Released in August this year and with featured verses from such great company as Earl Sweatshirt, Freddie Gibbs, Roc Marciano and Griselda member Benny the Butcher, Bo Jackson is the latest and greatest that the underground (which continues to pave its way towards the mainstream) hip-hop circle has to offer, filled with gorgeous beats and samples, phenomenal and thoughtful verses and a wonderful artistic presence.

Right from the beginning, with the opening track ‘Double Hockey Sticks’, it becomes clear that the album will be something special. Boldy James’ delivery is as laid back as they come, as if he is threatening to mumble his lines but enunciating just enough, and the manic piano and drum beat that seems to try to chase his oddball flow as best as it can is fantastic. Of course, after only 90 seconds you have a beat (and flow!) switch into a more straight forward gangsta rap hit, with the occasional deep bass jab to keep it moving.

Other highlights include the utterly gorgeous ‘Turpentine’, a track with one of James’ most complicated flows that glides over The Alchemist’s slightly glitchy, bubbly-textured soul-sampling beat which uses its female vocals to perfectly contrast James’ deeper voice. ‘Photographic Memories’, maybe the album’s best single track (though it’s difficult to choose one), speaks to something more abstract. A very strange sample is splayed over the background, frequently buried in filters and dipping in and out of earshot whilst the three rappers (James, Earl Sweatshirt and Roc Marciano) deliver great verses on different verses in wildly different flows. James speaks of ‘cashin’ in’ and how he feels he was ‘born convicted’, Earl speaks in his usually cryptic style of the ‘wind whipping up disasters’ and Marciano speaks of his success, how he ‘broke generational curses with my [his]cursive’ – it’s one of the most impressive moments on a record filled with them.

Bo Jackson is available to stream now, and distributed by ALC Records. Listen on Spotify below: 

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First year film student, writer (on film) and poet. I recently published my first poetry collection, Portrait of a City on Fire!

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