Detroit rapper Boldy James and prolific New York producer The Alchemist have worked together previously, with early pairings dating back to the early 2010s up to their 2021 collaboration, Bo Jackson. Since then, they’ve both evolved considerably as artists, embarking on sonic journeys to hone their respective crafts. With Super Tecmo Bo, the two return to what made previous Alchemist/Boldy James collaborations so compelling: matching the producer’s experimentation with one of the best spitters in rap.
Throughout his career, Boldy James has been grinding to make the most of his hometown talent. But only recently, after a few detours into work with rap’s new generation, has he found his true colors. His storytelling is the best kind of rap music: it doesn’t rely on the same old tropes about bling or women or drugs. Instead, James weaves in bits of family history and street life alongside his own trials and tribulations, never making them feel like an attempt to fit in with what’s hot or an attempt to prove how tough he is. He just tells stories about where he came from, and it works because it sounds like he’s telling them just for you.
James has long been considered next up in the Motor City and he continues to cement his status on Super Tecmo Bo. His spare flow and vivid wordplay are given the space they need courtesy of journeyman producer The Alchemist, who underwent a recent reinvention himself and is now mostly known for a trippy, sparse production style that’s really been making waves as of late. Alchemist puts together soulful piano loops, wobbly basslines, and chopped up samples that compliment James’ natural strengths. The production is warm and prismatic, eerie and unbounded soundscapes that often evoke the haunting samples and unpredictable drums of obscure psych records from the ‘60s.
This loose atmosphere gives space for the album to breathe, allowing James to be subtle and nuanced while still sounding forceful and direct. When you listen to the whole thing straight through, it feels like an immersive trip – a comprehensive portrait of growing up in a decaying Detroit.