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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.