How Boldy James and the Alchemist Became a Dream Team

Together, Boldy James and the Alchemist are an ultimate rap duo. After dropping their 'Bo Jackson,' they sit for an interview full of sports references.

Alchemist Boldy James

Photo by Jaxon Buzzell for ALC Records

Alchemist Boldy James

In 1986, Bo Jackson was selected No. 1 in the NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That same year, he was also a fourth round draft pick in the MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. After warning the Bucs that he wouldn’t play in Tampa, he made good on the promise, tearing up the MLB with the Royals before eventually joining the Raiders in the NFL (Al Davis was the only owner vocally open to the idea of Jackson playing both. The moral of the story is that when someone can do everything, you let them cook―specialization theory be damned. With Bo Jackson, the new project from Boldy James and the Alchemist, Al teed one up for Boldy, who broke one off for 80 yards and knocked one out of the park at the same damn time.

Pardon the extended sports metaphor, but that’s simply how Boldy James talks. Working with the Alchemist is like bodying half court shots like they’re layups. They work together like Stockton and Malone. As Al explains it, the two approached the recording sessions like they were preparing for battle—energy drinks on tap, 40 pound barbells strewn about the studio in case anyone needed a quick pump between verses. 

When listening to Bo Jackson, it’s clear that Boldy is in the middle of a Hall of Fame-solidifying run. With his 2020 releases (including another Alchemist-produced project, The Price of Tea in China) the Detroit-bred MC asserted himself as a leading voice in street rap, a disenchanted former hustler bringing Midwest grit to the East Coast tradition. With Bo Jackson, atop perfect beats from the Alchemist, Boldy stretches his sea legs after hopping off the PJ at LAX. There’s a West Coast cool that permeates Bo Jackson, and Boldy approaches the project with the healthy skepticism of a grinder who’s seen things too good to be true blow up in his face.

But at its core, Bo Jackson is a victory lap. “I can honestly say things are not only looking up, but life is damn near everything I ever wanted it to be at this point,” Boldy explains from his car, slugging across LA traffic. So almost everything is perfect. But Boldy and Al connect so intimately on their collaborations because this isn’t just two guys figuring shit out in the studio. There’s a familial bond that runs deeper than music, which keeps both artists at the top of their respective games. When Boldy’s in LA, his kids practically live with Al. The bonds are unbreakable, which is how a near-telepathic relationship unfurls itself into an album as pitch-perfect as Bo Jackson. If you’re waiting for a strikeout, a bricked corner three at the end of regulation, you may be sitting in front of your TV seething for years to come.

We caught up with Boldy James and the Alchemist shortly after Bo Jackson dropped. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.

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The album is out. Does that feeling ever get old?

The Alchemist: It’s comparable to anything great when you were a child, like one of those special days when you were going to an amusement park or doing something crazy. Additionally, I’ve been feeling very competitive lately. I like what I hear with all my contemporaries, so I was wanting to get on the court. The gym doesn’t close. While we’re sleeping, somebody’s in the gym shooting. So I was just like, if I could take Boldy and we go two on two and go out and hit the court, we can compete with anybody, anywhere.

Boldy James: I’m just happy to be back on the court with my bro. I was on injured reserve, redshirted for a minute, and I just had to let the league know that I wanted my starting point guard position back. So I’m out there running the one and two with my brother, rolling a mean pick and roll right now. We got a mean pick and roll, a screen play stop and pop, John Stockton and Karl Malone going on right now. We got a Mike and Scottie bag going on, so I’m just happy that we’re back in the playoffs. We’re competing to bring the chip home.

You said you were redshirted, but you also put out four amazing records last year. Do you feel like people thought that you were taking a break or something? You’ve been very productive.

Three of the years, I wasn’t focused while I was doing the Mass Appeal situation. And then I had a five-year legal setback, so it just feels good to be back working. Me and Al, we’re putting out good records. The fans told us we haven’t missed yet, so we’re going to continue to pound the rock in the paint. We’re going to keep trying to give the fans buckets. 

Did you guys just hop back in the studio to fuck around after The Price of Tea in China? Or did you explicitly decide to make another full-length project together?

Bro is very strategic, so we never stopped working. Even after we put out Boldface, we were still working. We had records left over from that. Even after Price of Tea, we were still working. After this Bo Jackson project, we just keep pounding. Like I say, we keep cracking at it, keep chipping away at it.

Alchemist: I love Price of Tea and the Boldface EP, but I definitely felt like we didn’t finish our full meal. Like, “All right, this is good, but I know we could go even further,” especially when you got somebody like Boldy. I felt that way with Freddie, too, when we did that project. Like, “All right, this is good but I know we can even go even crazier.” So it’s almost like the pool hall hustle. We reel them in. “You like that? All right, we got something more in store.” 

Boldy, Al just said he’s getting real competitive these days. So did you feel a different atmosphere in the studio when you were recording this time around? A little more of an edge from Al to bring your A game?

Boldy: Nah. When I’m working with bro, there’s no pressure. I can hit that same half-court jumper all day when I’m working with bro. He brings the best out of me, so competitive is an understatement when I’m not working with bro. I feel more than competitive when I’m not working with bro. I might do a lot of things, trying to take it to new heights and exploring new shit lyrically. But when I’m working with bro, I feel like can’t nobody fuck with us. In this current era in music, I think me and bro, we’ve been kicking ass.

Alchemist: Yeah. I switched up the liquids on this project. I came much more energy drink based. I was drinking a lot of energy drinks and I was real high-octane. There was a lot of octane in the studio. I set up a pull-up bar. We were watching old tapes. It was real competitive.

It was like hitting the gym.

Octane. That was a word that kept coming to me. Octane.

Boldy: 40-pound dumbbells laying around every time. Yeah. It was real.

Alchemist: Sometimes I get too aggressive and I got to chill out. It’s like, yo, it’s just music.

Boldy James and Alchemist
Boldy James

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