Underground duo Boldy James & The Alchemist deliver their second offering of 2021, picking up exactly where they left off for a 9-track jackpot.
Not even a year has passed since their last offering, Bo Jackson, hit the streets and the two have rejoiced yet again to exhibit their latest piece of work, titled Super Tecmo Bo. Continuing the trend of using nostalgic football aspects to center their work around, Boldy raps like he’s never left, showing fans he’s still in his prime like a young Bo Jackson.
Boldy’s performance on Super Tecmo Bo is comfortably supported by production laid down by close collaborator, The Alchemist, and thrives off of the superb chemistry between the two artists.
After further cementing their work in the underground with Bo Jackson earlier this year, Super Tecmo Bo is an added bonus for those who were fond of the duo’s tight chemistry. Through its relatively short run time, Super Tecmo Bo maintains a cohesive nature with its foundation of sinister beats and menacing rhymes to match. From beginning to end, the project trickles from one track to the next, making for a mesmerizing experience as Boldy pulls listeners into his dangerous world.
Boldy made his reemergence back into the hip-hop world spitting slick street rhymes on his 2020 Alchemist-assisted project The Price of Tea in China. Nearly two years later, Boldy has managed to improve his pen while preserving his rough-edged subject matter.
Right out the gate on Super Tecmo Bo‘s intro “Level Tipping Scales”, Boldy shows that he’ll never shy away from his minacious upbringing in his music. This is shown in the first few bars of the intro where Boldy raps: (“Can never be Big Meech, in love with tippin’ scales / Last week, we ran through twenty keys and a fifty bale”), displaying his mindset on his precarious lifestyle. As we know, this way of living has its pros and cons, but Boldy never hinders away from the dangerous outcomes that come with playing the streets. “Moth in the Flame” best describes the intentions behind those entering that lifestyle with the opening lines (“In the fire, I was just a moth in the flame / But aspiring to be a boss in the game”). Though many give him flack for his monotonous delivery, the main appeal of Boldy James comes from the writing and how the Detroit emcee never holds back from equally sharing the glorious moments and the pitfalls of being in the streets.
Though Boldy does a phenomenal job in providing an engaging performance, the musical contributions from the Alchemist can’t go unnoticed. The underground don works his magic in constructing the ominous atmosphere that serves as a perfect fit for Boldy’s rough and rugged rhymes. Part of the reason why Boldy and Al make a great duo is due to how the two artists challenge each other musically. Looking at a record like “Hot Water Tank” where Alchemist speeds up the tempo more than he usually does creates an opportunity for Boldy to switch up his flow and take a different approach to the record. This allows for the two to create an unbeatable dynamic and continuously improve with each collaboration.
The defining factor in the success of Super Tecmo Bo is beyond Boldy’s concentrated lyrics and The Alchemist’s cinematic production, but is rooted in the organic chemistry of both artists. Best described as a duo that encourage each other to escape their comfort zones, the deadly combination of the two at their core is enough to apply tremendous pressure in the rap game. Boldy being the closed off character he is, no producer can get the Detroit emcee to open up like the underground boss.
In a time where we find artists talking more about the glories obtained through the rigorous street lifestyle, its important to have artists like Boldy who acknowledge the other side of the wide lens. Though all tracks share the different aspects associated with the dope game, “Bumps and Bruises” stands out the most as the track points out the extreme risk of the situation: (“Catchin’ bodies to up his rank was dumb, deaf and stupid / Blind to the facts, come to the ‘jects, he always left ’em clueless”). The balance of introspective lessons mixed into jagged raps with an emotionless delivery is what best represents Boldy as an emcee, using his craft to highlight the dualities of his way of living.
After an amazing year for Boldy James and The Alchemist, Super Tecmo Bo provides listeners with more content from the duo, giving them a taste of what to expect heading into the new year. Building off of the base laid on Bo Jackson, Boldy and Al further expand on this territory and delve into different pockets that are considered out of the ordinary for the two while stretching the limits they’ve reached. Though it was lost in the camaraderie of year-end lists and events, Super Tecmo Bo is an essential underground listen that will be looked upon as a necessary listen for hip-hop in 2021.
8.5 / 10
Best tracks: “Moth in the Flame”, “Bumps and Bruises”, “Francois”, “Guilt”, “Great Adventures”