Review: Boldy James & The Alchemist, ‘Bo Jackson’

The underground’s most ambitious duo returns with another cutting-edge project that builds upon their chemistry to provide the same obscure sound that they’re notorious for.

Detroit’s own Boldy James has spent the last two years building upon his newfound resurgence in the hip-hop scene. After making waves with his Alchemist-produced, The Price of Tea in China, in February of 2020, fans have longed for another full-length collaboration between the two. Nearly a year and a half later, Boldy James and Alchemist reconnect to deliver Bo Jackson, their newest joint effort named after the popular athlete, Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson.

Boldy James and Alchemist slip right back into place and construct another amazing body of work that indirectly contributes to the new underground renaissance.

Bo Jackson yields a considerate length of 44 minutes wrapped up into 14 tracks. Compared to their first collaboration, Bo Jackson takes larger risks in its sound as Alchemist’s diverse production pushes Boldy into multiple pockets, allowing him to expand his artistic palette, whereas The Price of Tea in China had the same intention, just in a less milder form. As the project goes into many different areas sonically, Bo Jackson still contains a cohesive nature that never feels like the duo branches off entirely from their menacingly monotone style but still provides whole new experience in the music.

While the chemistry between Boldy and Alchemist shines bright throughout the project, the features from close affiliates help feed into the album’s energy and make for incredible standout moments. The duo keeps things tight as all collaborators are artists the two have worked with on many occasions. Whether it’s Benny the Butcher’s exceptional verse on “Brickmile to Montana” or uniting Earl Sweatshirt and Roc Marciano on the extraordinary cut, “Photographic Memories,” Boldy & Alchemist tap in with emcees they know will deliver amazing contributions.

Since his reappearance on the scene with his 2020 release, The Price of Tea in China, Boldy James has managed to maintain his position as one of the most lethal emcees out now. This time around, Boldy’s rhymes are tighter and the content is more personal. One track that stands out the most due to its vivid storytelling is “Illegal Search & Seizure”, which Boldy recounts the time his house got surrounded after getting ratted out by a close friend. On that same song, Boldy spits the lines, “Woke up to the raid team at my door, now my house surrounded / Thought that I was dreamin’, broski snitchin, that I couldn’t fathom / Put him in position, but for damn sure couldn’t put it past him”. Compared to his past projects, Bo Jackson has Boldy getting more personal in the music while improving his pen.

Alchemist has quickly become hip-hop’s favorite underground producer over the past few years. His menacing yet soulful production style has taken over the underground and serves as the base for this project’s sound. Being that him and Boldy had various collaborations done already, the chemistry between the two was stronger than ever this time around. Alchemist laces the project with his signature style, yet throws a few curveballs to keep Boldy on his toes. For example, the intro, “Double Hockey Sticks” contains a beat switch that ups the tempo, which pushes Boldy to transition into another pocket.

The title of the album is named after superstar athlete, Bo Jackson who was known for being a dual threat in the fields of football and baseball before facing a terrible hip injury, forcing him to retire. The connection between Bo Jackson and this album stems from the idea of being a double threat. Boldy and Alchemist have been officially working together since Boldy’s 2013 debut, My First Chemistry Set, and have grown so much since then. Nearly seven years later and the duo’s still tapped in with one another and fully aware of how each other works. Combining Alchemist’s superb production with Boldy’s slick rhymes provides the project with the strength of both abilities, making the two a double threat in the underground rap scene.

With Bo Jackson, Boldy James and Alchemist come together once again to deliver another phenomenal project and prove why they are the best artists in hip-hop right now. The strong connection between the two artists made this collaborative effort feel more intimate as you could feel the duo challenge one another to be the best and expand their artistic palette. When it comes to duos in modern-day hip-hop, Boldy and Alchemist definitely hold the throne, and Bo Jackson epitomises the power of the underground in 2021.

9 / 10

Best tracks: “Brickmile to Montana”, “Double Hockey Sticks”, “Photographic Memories”, “Illegal Search & Seizure”, “Fake Flowers”, “First 48 Freestyle”