Boldy James is knee-deep in industry conversations inside his manager Cedric Louie’s studio in Detroit’s west. Words like “features,” “splits,” “merch,” “catalogs,” and “comps,” bounce on and off the beige walls like a verbal game of racquetball.
Boldly, 39, is an emcee of an emcee. He has thousands of fans who want to see him behind the mic, and probably another thousand peers who want to share the mic with him.
Louie is the guy from Boldy, their friendship is more like Lucius Fox and Bruce Wayne. Louie filters out the bullshit, makes sure Boldy knows where he needs to be and gets paid for the things he’s supposed to be paid for.
“He’s definitely one of my favorite artists,” says Louie. “The first time I heard his music, I felt the same when I heard Jay-Z’s ‘Reasonable Doubt’ album or Streetlord Juan’s ‘So Far Gone’ album. Boldy takes his time and really cares about the music he makes. On top of all that, he really is a brother to me and we keep each other up to date in real life.
Born James Clay Jones III, Boldy was raised by his mother on the east side of Detroit until he was 8 years old, then he moved to the west side of Detroit to live with his father (a police officer). He discovered his gift for stitching metaphors into rhyme at an early age and started rapping in elementary school. “I’m from the area where we used to get in trouble rapping,” he says. “I’m talking about a teacher who ripped the paper off your desk in the middle of class because you were supposed to do schoolwork.”
Boldy’s connection to music was furthered by his cousin Evan Ingersoll, known worldwide as rapper and producer Chuck Inglish. Boldy and Inglish fed off each other. “I was always Chuck’s motivation on the streets because he didn’t grow up in the ghetto like me,” Boldly says. “He grew up in Mount Clemens. He had ideas to make these beats for these raps that I would rap a capella.
Boldy’s relationship with school never improved, and in ninth grade he decided it was time to move on. “I felt like the teachers weren’t going to understand me, they weren’t teaching me anything that was conducive to my future,” he says, adding, “I knew I had enough restlessness in me. to survive without putting an additional burden on my situation. I felt like I could take care of myself.”
When Boldy says, “I know I had enough hustle in me,” he’s not necessarily referring to the music but to the plethora of street knowledge he was quickly picking up. Boldy was confident enough to be able to maintain a wedding down the street, while making music his mistress without getting caught or caught.
“I was a real independent kid,” he says. “My dad raised me to be really stubborn, so I knew I had the ability within me to survive these hardships. That was my mindset, if my dad can’t catch me trying to to do anything in flagrante delicto [when I] live in the house with him, and he knows me better than anyone, so how can some asshole who doesn’t know me catch me doing anything? »
In the early 2000s, Inglish was recovering from a foot injury while in college in Illinois. In his spare time, he started making beats galore. This laid the foundation not only for Boldy, but also for Inglish’s band with Mikey Rocks, the Cool Kids. “He and Mikey started doing local shows and he was sending me beats,” Boldy says. “He came home on a holiday and invited me to come back with him to Illinois. When I got back, we did 18 songs. It was my first full job that I was confident enough to leave. people hear.
Boldy and Inglish remained frequent collaborators and constantly supported each other. In the spring of 2011, Boldy released Trapper’s Alley: Pros and Cons (The Quikcrete Ready Mixtape). The project’s single “I Sold Dope All My Life” led to the mixtape being considered one of the best of 2011 by critics, and Boldy considers the album his most significant release. “I think I put too many songs on it, but that was just because I wanted people to know that I have the music all day for you guys,” he says.
A year or two later, Boldy attended the SXSW festival in Texas with Inglish, where he met the Alchemist, the producer who would change his musical trajectory. Sonically, Alchemist was of the same musical lineage as producers like Pete Rock and DJ Premier, and had already cemented their musical footprint with their work with Mobb Deep and The Lox. He invited Boldy to California, where the duo recorded a few songs that eventually turned into a full project. In 2013, My 1st chemistry kit was released by Decon Records. In 2014, Decon Records became Mass Appeal Records, a company partially funded by hip-hop legend Nas, and Boldy was the label’s first official signed artist.
“It’s easy to see the talent there,” Nas told Detroit’s Big Greg in a 2015 radio interview with 107.5. “I just wanted to be associated with that.”
While Boldy was grateful for the opportunity, he also didn’t do backflips.
“I had just had my son, I had a daughter and I had stepchildren. I’m not going to say I jumped for joy,” Boldy said. “In my head, I was a little ecstatic, but we from here bro. You wake up every day and the sky is still the same color as the ground.
Boldy released the EP The art of climbing in 2017, but admits he still had too much focus directed towards life on the streets. “I wasn’t as focused on the music as I thought I was,” he says, adding, “Struggling to feed your family is cool, but I was trying to take shortcuts with something that can change your life and it’s legal.”
Boldy spent a year on the run from authorities, but eventually found himself sitting in a maximum-security cell serving a four-month sentence for four crimes. “It felt like you were royally screwed now,” he says.
He decided to dissolve his contract with Mass Appeal, and although his situation seemed grim, Boldy was quick to remind this writer that he had also bet on himself when he dropped out of school. He has always kept this same mentality. “I was talking to the CEO of Mass Appeal and he wasn’t talking about what I wanted to hear,” he says, adding, “I’m sitting in this thing knowing I’m going to have another shot at the title this time. that I know I just have to take a shot on the half court.
However, almost immediately after Boldy was released from prison on Dec. 12, 2019, he started flirting with life on the streets again — and nearly ended up in jail. “I got back into my old bag of stuff,” he says. “Something went horribly wrong, Nipsey died like everyone else in the same 48 hours. I called Chuck and told him I had to get the hell out of here, he sent me a ticket. ‘airplane.
Boldy returned to Cali, reconnected with Alchemist, and recorded music while the smoke cleared over another legal situation. They took out the BOLD CHARACTERS EP in 2019, and Alchemist knew the next project, The price of tea in China, was going to be special. “He looked at me and said, ‘I hope you’re ready for the next outing, because that’s one bad motherfucker we’re about to put together,'” Boldly said. “Once we posted it, I saw the response and it was all Al told me it would be.”
Since 2020, Boldy has been on a historic run. With his appetite for street life behind him, Boldy signed to Griselda Records in New York and released two more projects with Alchemist, bo jackson and Super Tecmo Bo. Hardly says fashion icon Virgil Abloh was such a fan that he intended to remake Nike’s Bo Jackson elliptical training shoe for Boldy before his untimely passing in 2021. “He had me texted,” Boldy said. “I didn’t know he was as big a fan of my music as he was.”
The dynamic duo relationship between Alchemist and Boldy works because it’s the perfect alignment of musical symmetry. Alchemist uses a “less is more” approach with its production style that vibrates perfectly with Boldy’s slightly raspy methodical flow. There is no competition between beats and bars, just pure chemistry.
“I always had a lot of respect for my father. Now I am a father. This is my new cheat code. Paternity. Just look at things from a different angle.
Part of what separates Boldy from the pack and makes him so critically acclaimed is his storytelling. Yes, he raps about the same subject as your favorite trap artist, but in a Pusha T way. In this trap musical world where everyone wants to be Michal Bay, Boldy is Francis Ford Coppola.
“I rap the same shit all the trap niggas do,” he says. “I’m just aware of how I phrase it. Probably more stimulating, and I’m probably taking my time with more to heal the flow. I just try to make good music, I tell my story and my truths.
Jay-Z publicly added Boldy’s “Speed Demon Freestyle” to his playlist in 2020, and Boldy says he even personally told him how much he loved his music after a show at the Los Angeles club, The Novo. “I saw a big mate come around the corner with a big smile on his face, he walked up to me, reached out to shake my hand and his other hand on my shoulder,” recalls Boldly. “And he was like, ‘Mr. Boldy James, you have amazing writing. Your new shit is all I listened to. Keep up the good work.'”
Boldy says he was overwhelmed by the compliment and took it as a sign from the universe to double down and go higher. He promises more music from him and Alchemist, but he also makes sure he’ll be the kind of father to his children that his father was to him.
“I always had a lot of respect for my father,” he says. “Now I am a father. This is my new cheat code. Paternity. Just look at things from another angle. Learn how to approach certain rhythms. Voice command is better. I’m just learning different formulas for creating music.
Boldly James and the Alchemist performs on a bill with Action Bronson and Earl Sweatshirt on Sunday, May 8 at The Fillmore; 2115 Woodward Avenue, Detroit; 313-961-5451; thefillmoredetroit.com. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $35.
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