Just a few weeks after it was reported that rapper Boldy James had been in a car accident in the Detroit area that left him with broken vertebrae in his neck and other injuries, the MC (who has since moved to a rehab center) released a sobering collaborative project with Rich Gains, Indiana Jones.
Boldy’s non-assuming delivery and melancholy aura seem almost elastic when applied to the sonic signatures of different producers—which makes, for example, his Nicholas Craven-helmed Fair Exchange No Robbery sound so different from his work with Futurewave (Mr. Ten08), Alchemist or Real Bad Man. In this case, Rich Gains, half of the production duo Blended Babies (with partner JP), has given the Detroit MC an eclectic vibe that pushes him in ambitious new directions.
As a result, Boldy delivers incredibly intriguing tracks balanced against some of his bleakest bars in recent memory. Over the menacing bass and twinkling piano keys of “Kat Eyes,” he describes trying everything in his power to free his mind from “evil and sad vibes,” before he recalls his father on his deathbed.
“Frozen,” built around Cassie J’s echoey croons, finds the MC at his most broken, lamenting, “Lost everything I love now I can’t feel,” before describing the PTSD he suffered as an adolescent after witnessing a murder. Possibly the most poignant line on the album is when he notes, “When it got dark, even my shadow left me.”
Still, in true Boldy fashion, he doesn’t wallow in the sadness; songs like the Gary Burton sampled “Dopey” alongside Cool Kids rapper Sir Michael Rocks or the Chuckstaaa-featuring “SOS” are far less heavy in the subject matter.
Still, the moments that put Boldy in a completely different context make this project stand out. “Wrong Side of Town,” with its maniacally melodic chorus by Ann One and reverberating guitar by Jonathan Chapman, or “Electric Blue,” which also features Jonathan Chapman, feel thematically familiar but socially reinvented.
“Electric Blue” could serve as a transitional song in an MTV reality show; for him, it’s a new level of accessibility.
It’s interesting to imagine how far Boldy could push this particular sound; considering how much music he has in his vault, including an entire project with beats by the late J. Dilla, there may already be much more in store.
On the moody “Never Had a Friend,” an ode to Boldy’s macabre level of loyalty toward those in his inner circle, he rhetorically asks if the listener has ever seen anyone take as many Ls and still come back from the win as him; given his new journey toward recovery following his accident, this sentiment feels especially powerful. In a rap world that’s found a way to glorify street life, the Detroit MC has always found a way to make it seem every bit as lucrative but far less sexy—a byproduct of its lowest lows.
Indiana Jones may not be his opus. But for some listeners put off by his purposefully low-key delivery and often dark aesthetic, it serves as an excellent gateway drug to the high-calibre catalog he’s been building over the past few years.
Get well soon, Boldy.
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