ALBUM REVIEW: Boldy James Steps Out on ‘The Price of Tea in China’

The Detroit MC emerges from the underground on his Alchemized LP.

Detroit rapper Boldy James has flown more or less under the radar since debuting in 2011, but chances are he’s on your favorite rapper’s list of favorite rappers. On his new album, The Price of Tea in China, the underrated MC links up with The Alchemist for a project that should finally puts him on the map. 

Boldy has an understated, straight-talk delivery, and there’s a stuffy quality to his voice, like he’s fighting a cold. It’s a calm flow, but his raps about street life are so forthright and cold that you can feel something ominous lurking beneath the surface. His delivery is perfect over the blunted loops and muffled drums that Alchemist has for him. The chemistry of Boldy’s no-nonsense flow with the Al’s adventurous production isn’t unlike that of Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, and this may be the best rapper-producer pairing since them. 

There’s no denying that Boldy is the star of the show, but the featured MCs on this project are well cast. Benny the Butcher, Vince Staples and the aforementioned Gibbs all fit the mood perfectly, and Evidence delivers an especially memorable moment as he laces his trademark slow-flow style over an open, drumless beat constructed out of the pluck of a jazz guitar and a couple bass tones. This is my favorite hip-hop album of this messed-up, quarantined year so far.

Score: 🍵🍵🍵🍵 / 5