Boldy James, who despite often releasing material about being on the wrong side of the law, is a decidedly blue-collar rapper who often exhibits elite lyricism. He serves as a visceral reminder of the neglected majesty and the work ethic his hometown is synonymous with. Reporting right from the true face of the city, James personifies something bigger than just drug talk. Boldy represents the true struggle of a populace who’s both judged and ignored. He’s a deft storyteller, spitting deceptively bare-bones bars with a distinct Midwestern lean.
Personally, I’ll never forget the first time I heard a Boldy James record. His incredibly realistic description of a home invasion from his first project is a perfect description of what transpires in such situations and something that has stayed with me. His attention to detail illustrates the grim realities of street life in a way few things can do, he’s almost a living, breathing hip-hop equivalent to The Wire.
Boldy recently returned from a brief hiatus with House of Blues, his first full-length mixtape in two years. Featuring propulsive bangers such as the motivational “Do It“ and “Maserati Rick,” an ode to a notorious Detroit drug dealer, House of Blues presents Boldy’s trademark lyricism in an entirely new light. Released by Mass Appeal records, Boldy’s House Of Blues is a treat for trappers, lyric-fiends, and old-school heads alike.
Explains Boldy James of the project, “I named it House of Blues for a couple reasons. My first show with Nas was in Chicago at The House Of Blues, so it was a monumental moment in my rap career, but it also refers to a particular period in my life in Detroit. Me & my big brother Blue, we used to sell blue pills out of a blue house on a street called Blue Hill, with a blue-nose pitbull. In so many words, everything was blue. On the new tape, I’m trying a new sound, bringing in some elements of trap music–trying to bridge the gap for people who are biased against that kind of music. I’m releasing the project on 2/27 because 2-2-7 is a number of significance to me, the ConCreatures, and a bunch of other groups from my area of Detroit, like Double Dee & The Game Time Mafia, Redi-Rock & The Bully Boys, the list goes on. 2-2-7 is my bread and butter and I hold it near and dear to my heart.”
In our latest DGB interview we sat down with Boldy and discussed music, House of Blues, and what’s going on in Michigan.
How are people responding to House of Blues?
I got a different type of response from my old Alchemist, Cool Kids records, etc. I haven’t had a bad response at all, but the music on House of Blues is definitely a little different from the usual! The songs are bumpin’ for sure.
How has being on Mass Appeal impacted your career?
Mass Appeal did nothing but uplift me. From the marketing, advertising, branding, to my music. For the most part, I don’t have any complaints. I’m just going to continue to keep working harder so I can get a bigger push behind records that are a gamble, some of my deeper cuts.
What’s it like to meet and record with artists you grew up listening too? Any surprises?
It’s almost unrealistic at times, when I really think about it, collaborating with these artists is something I’ve always planned on. I’ve planned on getting there… now I’m there – It’s surreal. So at this point I need to figure out my next move. I gotta make my investments to break the internet. I’ve already gotten to work with Nas, I would like to Jay Z, Scarface, Snoop Dogg.
Do you feel like enough attention is given to the lack of resources and opportunities available in Detroit and the state of Michigan?
There’s enough attention but not enough resources. They’re not available as they should be. The social issues are out of my hands – government should be fixing things but they aren’t. They don’t have to go through it personally so they ignore that shit. Also, the more money us regular people donate to them, or the more we contribute, the more people at the top just pocket everything to themselves.
Do you feel the average listener perceives the inherent social commentary in your music?
I try not to be too political because there’s always gonna be change. I couldn’t even bring myself to vote, I just got caught up in my own world because some of this shit is just out of my control. Sometimes I don’t feel like it’s gonna make a difference whether I’m involved or not. I have my own family, personal crises, issues. Anything around us, it still affects me one way or the other, and I do feel like a lot is out of our control. When we try to reach people in government, our voices aren’t heard.
What do you think is the public at large’s biggest misconception about drug dealers?
People just don’t understand why we put ourselves through it so hard – people think its an easy task, but its not. You gotta watch your back, watch the police. Drug dealing is one of the hardest jobs you can take on. I know people look at me as the bad guy, but I’m not different from the guy down the street. Some people look at us like monsters, some looks at us like saviours. It’s a two-way street.
How’re the Concreatures doing?
We good. People thought that we might have fell apart because I got locked up or because of my two-year hiatus, or that I got dropped from the label and was done making music. But, we’re good! All concreatures 100! I’m the only Concreature who really raps professionally or is being taken seriously at the moment. All the rest of the gang is into keeping balance in their households and other career moves. Nobody beefed out though, we’re all good.
Does the Midwest get it’s just due in regards to being a consistent producer of quality hip-hop music?
Yes, we definitely do. You got Kanye, Big Sean, me, Danny Brown, drill music in Chicago – everything gets a lot of attention. We get the respect we deserve, there’s a lot going on and a lot of different genres, subgenres.
Which of your projects have you listened to the most for enjoyment?
Consignment – it was a fun project at the time, I had nothing going on in my life at that moment that was as serious as the things I have going on now. A lot of things going on in my life now can take away from my music and creativity – me being so available to other people, my family, etc. My schedule conflicts a lot. So I remember Consignment and the time of my life then, it was fun and free.
What do you think is your strongest verse (that’s released) thus far?
On House of Blues my song “A Couple” – My first verse I like a lot. The flow, the feel, it was one of the most natural verses I’ve ever done. Nothing was forced.
Who were the first Southern artists you regularly listened to?
Scarface, Pimp C, Bun B, Devin the Dude!
What can we expect from you coming up?
Got stuff in the works. Another project, to be announced.
What’s the difference between an album and a mixtape?
To me, mixtapes you can give away for free and promote on the internet as much as you like. Fans can get the free download. Some album releases are private, people try to make it exclusive or have teasers and ration out the songs. But both are important in this day, it’s hard to get the fans to pay attention when you are trying to sell to them. So mixtapes and albums have different ways to reel fans and new audiences in. You just try to get the buzz to be big enough to drop something, you want your fans to eat your music up like hot cake.