In a year populated with incredible collaborative albums, Detroit emcee and veteran, legendary producer Alchemist have released one of the most compelling, textured, soulful and introspective albums this year. Bo Jackson is the second collab album between these two hip-hop heavyweights, following their excellent 2020 album The Price of Tea in China. My first introduction to Boldy James’ music actually was on this album, and it has taken me on a journey discovering his vivid, animated discography. Alchemist, on the other hand, has been a part of some of my favourite hip-hop records period, and was a part of one of my absolute favourite albums to come out this year – Armand Hammer’s Haram. His idiosyncratic production is often difficult to predict from release to release, his versatility is what makes him such an iconic figure. Boldy James’ mystic, often monotonous, but equally as captivating lyricism and flow is what makes him such an interesting emcee. He talks about street life, cocaine and drug dealing, as well as drawing from personal experiences that have shaped the person he is today and the position he is in today – as an accomplished emcee who is still hungry to prove he’s one of the best artists in the game.
From first listen, this album sounds more soulful and subdued in sound than his previous collab with Alchemist. Tracks like “Turpentine” (one of my favourites), has this soulful vocal sample that sounds like it’s flipped throughout – a truly incredible moment that is obviously aided by Boldy James’ vivid and visceral lyricism. “Diamond Dallas” featuring Stove God Cooks and “Illegal Search & Seizure” are other examples of beautiful and soulful moments that are complemented Boldy James effortless and buttery flow. “E.P.M.D” is quite a memorable moment to me, as Boldy talks about how he’s “tied in with mob heads”, also talking about robbing and how street life has shaped his relationship with other people in his immediate and more distant circle of acquaintances. He sounds dangerous and unassuming on this track, and it’s not the only time he sounds this hungry and menacing. On “Steel Wool”, he states “Knee deep in thе dope game, 227, we the realest / Cocaina on the skillet, kitchen smellin’ like acrylic”. His delivery is what makes these kinda lyrics work. I believe every single word, and his ability to draw you into his world is what makes him such an incredibly gifted storyteller. The eerie keys on “Flight Risk” are exceptional, as Boldy James proclaims “Life of a mis-con, real street shit, ain’t no sitcoms.” The features throughout this album also do their thing. While Benny The Butcher’s verse on “Brickmile To Montana” is short, the pace at which he rhymes and the tenacity of his raps makes it a memorable one, especially on Alchemist’s gritty production. Both Earl Sweatshirt and Roc Marciano feature on “Photographic Memories”, another standout on the album. Earl’s earthly and reflective lyrics are present on this track, as he states “Wind whippin’ up disasters in the distant clouds / Hit the basement, the moon full at its roundest / Wolves howlin’, cleared up a couple counts”. Roc Marciano’s clever and witty lyricism is also featured here – “The pain run deep, you only see what it is on the surface / My bitch in there squeaky-clean, but the work was sittin’ in her cervix (Boofed it).” Curren$y and Freddie Gibbs feature on “Fake Flowers” and it is such a memorable track, with a dark and eerie beat complementing all emcees, who bring striking verses that complement the claustrophobic beat Alchemist is able to produce. It’s a truly phenomenal track and exemplary of the high level presented throughout the entire project.
Boldy James and Alchemist have exceeded expectations on Bo Jackson, creating dynamic, eclectic body of work that is equally as soulful as it is gritty. Boldy’s intricate verses and vivid stories are perfect over Alchemist’s textured production. Boldy has, over the years established himself as one of the most talented emcees and storytellers working today, and while he doesn’t really have anything to prove anymore, working with the likes of Alchemist and rapping over his incredible beats only cements his legacy further. Bo Jackson is excellent, and you should really go check it out and support!