There is something that is immediately awe-inspiring from the first initial moments on Bo Jackson. As DET trains fly by at record speed and streets pass like seconds on the clock, Boldy James and Alchemist are godly behind the speakers. Necessary to take a step back to understand and comprehend, Bo Jackson opens on “Double Hockey Sticks” where the intimidating piano riff is overshadowed by Boldy James’ guttural vocal performances. It comes off like a genesis of dope dealing, the first initial peek into the life of someone that has really lived through both the ugliness and the flaunt.
Boldy James or “Bo Jackson” in this sense is able to transfer the track “Double Hockey Sticks” like the flip of a wrist. Instead of wearing diamonds or ice, there is a blood-soaked fist as the piano grows in this prowess to crush. When the drums fit as Boldy James explains, “Ice wires, diamonds cuttin’ up like I’m Mike Myers. Gotta shoot it up in front of me, the first-time buyers.” While a majority of the audience cannot relate, when that second beat from The Alchemist hits, the boom-bap snap is enough to get your grandmother nodding her head.
As he illustrates, “Niggas want smoke, I put that pain in. Judge tried to hang him, couldn’t show up to the arraignment. It’s 227, if it ain’t that, fuck is you claiming? Niggas ain’t gang, when they reach for dap, I leave ‘em hangin’.” Working with a maestro like Alchemist gives Boldy James space to move on Bo Jackson. Similar to the running back elite of the athlete’s name that covers the album, Boldy James ducks and dives like a running back over an elusive number of beats without missing a step.
He hits drills and runs plays as if it was second nature, especially on the following track, “Turpentine“ where the abrasive vocals are destructive over a higher-pitched sample. The percussion here shows the raw ability and ear that Alchemist has without being too overpowering, giving Boldy James a stage to conquer on.
The production here on “Turpentine” really is the beauty that draws the listener in, making them attentive without becoming lost on Boldy James. But there are moments on Bo Jackson where tracks like “Flight Risk” are twisted and caught in a dope fiend overdose dream. The shadows dance on the walls as light fades, leaving Boldy James to narrate over these crisp samples of distorted and drained vocals.
The human aspect is missing, almost as if The Alchemist takes an audience to another planet based on production. While the audience’s heartbeat is audible through the instrumental, “Flight Risk” is deafening in emotion.
Boldy James describes, “I hear everybody claiming gang time and they don’t even know what that shit mean… Ranned it up on the incline, maybe if I wasn’t in the streets full time, would’ve been signed. Life of a mis-con, real street shit, ain’t no sitcoms.”
Before the curtain calls, Boldy takes the audience to the back alleys and the daunting nature of the motor city connect. Instead of being surrounded by a factory of machines, Boldy James is a human factory surrounded by machines of destruction, but also in the business of creation too.