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Detroit rapper Boldy James first made waves—at least, in certain underground circles—with his debut tape, Trapper's Alley: Pros and Cons back in 2011. The then-29-year-old rapper had crafted a 28-track epic, an autobiographical opus that focused on the unflinching truths of the drug dealer's day-to-day. It was a lifetime in the making; some of the verses had been written when Boldy was only a teenager.

Far from glorifying, it found artfulness in documenting humanity in an ugly occupation. His street-oriented style and autobiographical stories were reminscient of New York rappers like Prodigy and Cormega. Many of his friends and classmates had ended up in jail or dead; in some ways, his work felt like a memorial for the many people lost along the way by a sole survivor.

Since his debut, Boldy has gained momentum, ultimately recording his latest record—this month's My 1st Chemistry Set—entirely with underground superproducer The Alchemist. The record has earned considerable attention, and while it might not make him a superstar, it leaves him poised to make an important mark on the genre.

But who is Boldy James? We spoke with the rapper about coming up in Detroit, the influence of his cousin, Cool Kid Chuck Inglish, and his plans for the future.

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