Boldy James – “Bo Jackson” review

This is the 4th full-length album from Detroit emcee Boldy James. Breaking out in 2013 off his Alchemist produced debut M.1.C.S. (My 1st Chemistry Set), he would land a contract with Nas’ independent label Mass Appeal Records for a little while before getting locked up. Uncle Al would help get Boldy’s name back out there once getting out by dropping the Boldface EP around Christmas 2019 & then the sophomore album The Price of Tea in China at the beginning of last year. This was followed up with the Sterling Toles-produced Manger on McNichols which was as equally fantastic, but the Griselda Records-backed Versace Tape EP was a tad bit disappointing given how rushed it was. But with the 1-year anniversary of that project coming up this weekend, it’s only right for Boldy to reenlist Alchemist for Bo Jackson.

“Double Hockey Sticks” starts out with a haunting boom bap instrumental getting on his pyrex shit, but then has a hazy switch up talking about beating a case. The next song “Turpentine” has a more chipmunk soul vibe speaking on hard times whereas “Brickmile to Montana” with Benny the Butcher serves as a rugged sequel to “Scrape the Bowl”. The pianos on “E.P.M.D. (Everybody Plotting My Demise)” are eerie as fuck with Boldy calling out those who want to see him fail just before declaring that nobody is cut from his cloth for the airy “Steel Wool”.

Meanwhile on “Photographic Memories”, we have Earl Sweatshirt & Roc Marciano jump on top of a vocal loop saying they never forget faces leading into the demented storytelling “Speed Trap” provides. He later talks about taking the pot & going gold for the piano-laced “Diamond Dallas”, but then “Flight Risk” puts heavy reverb on the sample getting in his mafioso bag.

“Illegal Seizure & Search” gets back on the soulful tip talking about 5-0 whereas “Fake Flowers” with Curren$y & Freddie Gibbs viciously calls out those who be faking the funk with them. The song “3rd Person” has a more rock feel to it pondering how many times you can get away with murder while the penultimate track “First 48” is a cold blooded freestyle going on for 3 minutes. Then there’s “Drug Zone”, which ends the album with Boldy comparing himself to such.

If you happen to like Bo Jackson more than M.1.C.S. (My 1st Chemistry Set) or even The Price of Tea in China, I wouldn’t be mad at it at all because this is the 3rd damn near perfect album they’ve done together. Boldy’s raw lyricism never fails to amuse me & the production is much better than The Versace Tape although I do respect Jay Versace.

Score: 4.5/5

The Alchemist – “This Thing of Ours” review

This is the 9th EP from Beverly Hills producer, DJ & emcee The Alchemist. Coming up as 1/2 of The Whooliganz in 1993 with Scott Caan, the disbanded a year later after recording a debut album that eventually got shelved & Scott went onto acting. Mudfoot however, quickly established himself as a household name in hip hop production by working with a handful of the culture’s most iconic names ranging from Mobb Deep to Eminem. Last thing we heard from him solo wise was The Food Villain back in October & after producing the new Armand Hammer album Haram to universal acclaim last month, Uncle Al is staying busy by amassing 6 emcees for This Thing of Ours.

The opener “Nobles” weaves in a Sun Ra sample as Navy Blue & Earl Sweatshirt trade bars back & forth with one another while the next song “TV Dinners” is a bit oxymoronic with it’s calming instrumental along with Boldy James & Sideshow declaring themselves as soldiers through the lyrics. The penultimate track “Holy Hell” by Maxo & Pink Siifu goes on about the devil wanting their souls over a guitar & a vocal sample before Earl returns to talk about people nickel & diming on the trumpet-heavy closer “Loose Change”.

Not the best EP we’ve heard from The Alchemist, but still an enjoyable listen. His production is a lot more chilled out in comparison to Haram & despite a couple of the guest MCs providing weak verses, most of them do what they do best.

Score: 3.5/5

Armand Hammer – “Haram” review

Armand Hammer is duo from New York City consisting of Billy Woods & Elucid. Forming together in 2013 off their only mixtape Half Measures & the debut album Race Music, the pair would go on to release an EP & 3 more full-lengths worth of abstract political hip hop. Their previous effort Shrines just came out this past summer & not even a year later, Billy & Elucid have tapped on The Alchemist for their 5th full-length album.

The album kicks off with “Sir Benni Miles”, where Armand Hammer gets cryptic over a grimy instrumental with a couple of vocal samples laced in. The next song “Roaches Don’t Fly” talks about how “you don’t have to be here if you don’t wanna” over a synth-heavy beat with some occasional guitar passages while the track “Black Sunlight” gives the listener profound motivation over a cheerful instrumental. The track “Indian Summer” talks about swearing vengeance in the 7th grade & how they “can’t walk them dogs with you” over a mystical beat while the track Aubergine with Fielded finds the 3 talking about hysteria over an instrumental that starts off with a demented atmosphere, but then switches into something more forlorn.

The song “God’s Feet” talks about “blowing that horn fast” over a glistening boom bap beat while the track “Peppertree” talks about how “there’s something else out there” over a saxophone & a reversed loop. The song “Scaffolds” talks about always being late with the epiphanies & having excuses over a paranormal instrumental while the track “Falling Out the Sky” with Earl Sweatshirt sees the trio opening up about their demons over a lachrymose beat.

The song “Wishing Bad” with Curly Castro & Amani finds the 4 talking about how all their problems come from no compensation over a minimal, yet deranged instrumental while the track “Chicharonnes” with Quelle Chris sees the 3 talking about corrupt cops over a ghastly beat. “Squeegee” is another favorite of mine with it’s enraged verses, the ear-grabbing hook & repose production while the penultimate track “Robert Moses” talks about a new day over a jazz-laced instrumental. The album ends with “Stonefruit”, where the duo talk about having so much to undo over a celebratory beat.

This is hands down one of the best albums I’ve heard all year & I’ll even go as far to say that it’s Armand Hammer’s magnum opus. Couple of the features were a miss for me personally, but the gruesome imagery that Billy Woods & Elucid paint goes hand to hand with Uncle Al’s signature sound almost flawlessly.

Score: 4.5/5

Freddie Gibbs – “Alfredo” review

Freddie Gibbs is a 37 year old emcee from Gary, Indiana that started out in 2004 with his debut mixtape Full Metal Jackit. Interscope Records would eventually sign him in 2006, but he left shortly after without releasing a full-length debut. This was made up for with the mixtapes The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs & Str8 Killa No Filla, which would catch the attention of Jeezy & land Freddie a contract with CTE World in 2011. This didn’t last long though, as Gibbs would leave CTE the following year after releasing the tapes Cold Day in Hell & B.F.K. (BabyFace Killa). In 2013, he decided to form his own label E$GN Records & finally dropped the full-length album, E.$.G.N. (Evil $eeds Grow Naturally). He & iconic Oxnard producer Madlib would drop their MadGibbs debut Piñata the year after that, which is EASILY one of the greatest hip hop albums of the previous decade. Gibbs continued to grow his profile after that with Shadow of a Doubt, You Only Live 2wice, Freddie, the Curren$y collab EP Fetti & of course there’s MadGibbs’ sophomore effort Bandana almost a year ago at this point. However, he’s returning out of the blue with his 3rd full-length album & The Alchemist producing it in it’s entirety.

Things kick off with “1985”, where Freddie talks about his flow being God level over a psychedelic guitar instrumental. The next song “God Is Perfect” talks about “Gangland shit” over a dreary instrumental while the track “Scottie Beam” finds Gibbs getting conscious & Rick Ross flexing over a dreamy instrumental. The song “Look At Me” talks about how he ain’t looking back over a soulful instrumental while the track “Frank Lucas” with Benny the Butcher sees the 2 talking that drug dealing over a grim boom bap beat.

The song “Something to Rap About” with Tyler, The Creator sees the 2 discussing rapping about crime & fame respectively over a tropical instrumental while the track “Baby $hit” talks about how soft dudes be nowadays over a more spacious instrumental. The song “Babies & Fools” with Conway the Machine sees the 2 reminiscing on their first & second loves over a gorgeously smooth instrumental while the penultimate track “Skinny Suge” opens up about feeling like someone’s tryin’ to kill him over a meditative beat. The album finishes off with “All Glass”, where Gangsta Gibbs gets on the gangsta tip over a hard hitting instrumental.

For this being the lyrical surprise album everyone was talking about dropping this week, it’s phenomenal. Probably Freddie’s best solo effort yet in my opinion. The production is phenomenal as we’d all expect from Uncle Al at this point & Freddie’s pen-game is just as gruesome as it was on Bandana.

Score: 4.5/5

Conway the Machine – ” LULU” review

Conway the Machine is an emcee that blew up as 1/3 of the trio Griselda with Westside Gunn & Benny the Butcher. Last year we saw him droping a total of 3 short projects last year & now with the 1st quarter of 2020 coming to a close, he’s enlisting West Coast veteran The Alchemist to produce his 6th EP in it’s entirety.

After the intro, we get into the first song “14 KI’s”. Where Conway of course talks about pushing coke over an ominous beat. “The Contract” speaks on how nobody’s on his level over an orchestral instrumental while the song “Shoot Sideways” with ScHoolboy Q sees the 2 talking about murder over a boom bap beat. The track “Calvin” talks about being the big homie over a demented beat while the song “They Got Sunny” with Cormega sees the 2 going at wack rappers over a grimy boom bap beat. The EP finishes off with “Gold BBS’s”, where La Maquina talks about gunning down those who oppose him over a boom bap beat with a spooky vocal sample.

To me, this is easily one of the best things Conway has ever put out. He sounds a lot more focused than he did on the 3 projects that he dropped last year & the production is more consistent too because you can’t really go wrong with The Alchemist.

Score: 4.5/5

Boldy James – “The Price of Tea in China” review

This is the long-awaited sophomore album from Detroit emcee Boldy James. A man who rose to fame with his Alchemist produced 2013 debut M.1.C.S. (My 1st Chemistry Set). This resulted in a contract with Nas’ independent label Mass Appeal Records, but unfortunately Boldy got locked up for a while. He eventually made his comeback a few years ago with his House of Blues mixtape & now after reuniting with the Uncle Al on his Boldface EP a couple months ago, they’re back again with The Price of Tea in China.

The album kicks off with “Carruth”, where Boldy reminisces on his past over some piano chords & a chilling vocal sample in the background. The next song “Giant Slide” gets mafiosio over a boom bap beat laced with these eerie whistling noises while the track “Surf & Turf” with Vince Staples sees the 2 talking about being overlords backed by this intoxicating instrumental. The song “Run-Ins” talks about being chased by the cops over a repetitive vocal sample that fits in flawlessly, but then it switches into a grimy ass beat leading into the track “Scrape the Bowl” with Benny the Butcher as the 2 talk about smuggling coke to their respective hometowns. The song “Pinto” talks about being rich from the drug game over a beat with these luscious string sections while the track “Slow Roll” finds Boldy flexing over an intimidating instrumental.

The song “S.N.O.R.T.” essentially gets back on the coke tip alongside Freddie Gibbs over a gritty beat then the track “Grey October” with Evidence sees the 2 pouring their hearts out over a psychedelic instrumental. The song “Mustard” has a funereal feel to it that I really like despite being way too short while the penultimate track “Speed Demon” talks about criminal activity over a boom bap beat with some nice horn samples. Then there’s the closer “Phone Bill”, which is about going from broke to rich over a calming beat.

For a comeback album, it’s damn near perfect to the point where it almost feels like Boldy never left. His pen game is still razor sharp as it was on the debut & Alchemist continues to provide him with brilliant musical soundscapes that help bring his bars to life.

Score: 4.5/5

Boldy James – “Boldface” review

Boldy James is a 36 year old MC from Detroit, Michigan who blew up on the scene with his Alchemist produced 2013 debut M.1.C.S. (My 1st Chemistry Set). He then landed a contract with Nas’ independent label Mass Appeal Records, but sadly went to prison for a while. Boldy eventually made his comeback a couple years ago with his House of Blues mixtape & now it seems like he’s trying to rekindle the flame with Uncle Al on his 3rd EP.

It all starts off with “Ill Advised”, where Boldy gets mafioso over a symphonic instrumental. The next song “Method of Madness” continues the lyrical themes of the previous cut over a grimy trap beat while the track “Summer Nights” gets reflective over an instrumental with a harmonious sample. The song “Dinavolino” with The Cool Kids gets homicidal over an intimidating instrumental & even though the closer “My 1st Offense” recalls the first time he got popped over a funky beat, it’s way too short.

If this is just an appetizer for a main course, then I’m all for it. Boldy sounds like he never even left really whereas The Alchemist’s production still fits his gritty pen-game like a glove. Would love to see them make another album together because even though this only runs it 15 minutes, they still recapture what made M.1.C.S. (My 1st Chemistry Set) so great in that short amount of time.

Score: 4/5

Action Bronson – “Lamb Over Rice” review

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This is the 3rd EP from New York rapper, writer, chef & television presenter Action Bronson. Who blew up with release of his first 2 studio albums Dr. Lecter & Well-Done in 2011. This resulted in a joint venture with VICE Music & Atlantic Records along with a couple EPs & mixtapes. The most notable being the Blue Chips duology, Saab Stories & my personal favorite: Rare Chandeliers. Then came Bronson’s major label debut Mr. Wonderful in 2015 which has some of his best songs on there, but the end result would be a more glitzy mixed bag. Bronson’s next effort Blue Chips 7000 would go back to his mixtape roots & it would be his final release on VICE/Atlantic, as he would go onto form the EMPIRE distributed Action Bronson Corporation last year & debuted the imprint with the solid yet somewhat rushed White Bronco. Other than that, Bronson has put out very little music throughout 2019. But with Thanksgiving next week, he has decided to get back with The Alchemist for Lamb Over Rice. Which is honestly the most excited I‘ve been for an ‪Action Bronson‬ project in a while given the quality of his past few projects along with the fact that Alchemist’s production seems to bring the best out of Bronson like on that Rare Chandeliers mixtape & or the Mr. Wonderful single “Terry”, which I can make the argument for being the best song Bronson has ever put out.

The opener “Dmtri” finds Bronson angrily rapping about about knockin’ it out of the box over a calming instrumental while the song “Sven” saying his competition ain’t shit over an almost futuristic sounding beat. The track “Tear Away Shorts” flexes over a boom bap beat with rich keyboards while the song “Accountrements” gets confrontational over a funky bass-line. The track “Descendant of the Stars” is a hard hitting theme song for Bronson’s show Traveling the Stars while the song “Just the Way It Is” details his love life over a boom bap beat with a continuous piano note. The EP then finishes off with “Arnold & Danny”, where Bronson & Uncle Al both rap about success over an instrumental that sounds like something out of a 70’s flick.

I was expecting this to be Action Bronson’s best project in a while & that’s definitely what I got. Bronson sounds a lot more focused than he did on White Bronco & much like Rare Chandeliers, the instrumentals that Alchemist bring to the table fits Bronson’s personality like a glove.

Score: 4.5/5

The Alchemist – “Bread” review

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The Alchemist is a 41 year old producer, DJ & rapper from Beverly Hills, California who started out as 1/2 of the duo The Whooliganz in 1993 with Scott Caan. The duo disbanded a year later after recording a debut album that eventually got shelved & Scott went onto acting. Alchemist however, quickly established himself as a household name in hip hop production by working with a handful of legends from Mobb Deep to Eminem. He dropped a short 4-track EP back in April of this year called Lunch Meat & now he’s following it up with this 6th EP right here, which is equally as long as the predecessor.

The EP kicks off with “Ray Mysterio” by Hall ‘N Nash, where Westside Gunn & Conway deliver their signature gritty street bars over a smooth yet mystic sounding instrumental. The next track “Roman Candles” by Black Thought & Roc Marciano sees the 2 getting boastful over a jazzy beat while the penultimate song “Mac 10 Wounds” by Conway talks about how he’s not weak over a sinister beat. The EP then finishes off with E. Coli by Earl Sweatshirt, where he gets spiritual over a harmonious vocal sample & some strings.

Even though I would’ve loved 3 more tracks just like with Lunch Meat, this is on par with it’s predecessor in terms of length, production dynamics & passionate yet raw lyricism from beginning to end. Hopefully, Uncle Al drops something bigger as we head into 2019.

Score: 4/5

Curren$y & Freddie Gibbs – “FETTI” review

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Curren$y & Freddie Gibbs are 2 MCs in their late 30s with similar upbringings in their careers. Spitta was signed to No Limit Records & Young Money Entertainment/Cash Money Records throughout the 2000s while Freddie was signed to Interscope & CTE World/Def Jam in the late 2000s/early 2010s. Neither of them put out a full-length album on any of those labels, as it wouldn’t be until they found their success as independent artists. The 2 have been teasing a collab EP all year & for Halloween, they’ve decided to put it out with the legendary Alchemist producing it in it’s entirety.

The opener “Location Remote” sees the 2 getting boastful over a sinister beat & the next track “The Blow” of course talks about drug dealing over some bass playing, but the hook is pretty awkward. The song “New Thangs” is a return to the boastful bars over some luscious keyboards & even though the track “Saturday Night Special” has spacey instrumental, Spitta & Gangsta Gibbs are talking about 2 separate things. Curren$y is going at the people copying his style while Freddie talking about putting his mob over everything & later a sexual encounter.

The song “Now & Later Gators” is a Freddie solo cut that humorously indulges into old school R&B & the track “No Window Tints” is a Curren$y solo cut vividly going into the mind of a drug dealer over a sinister instrumental. The song “Willie Lloyd” is another Freddie solo cut, this time delivering more serious & gritty street bars over a suiting instrumental while the penultimate track “Tapatio” sees him reuniting with Spitta to talk about warrants being put out on them over a relaxing & almost tropical instrumental. The EP then finishes with “Bundy & Sincere”, where the 2 make a heartfelt tribute to Mac Miller over a smooth instrumental.

After being teased all year, this was well worth it. The Alchemist’s production is a little bit jazzier & he compliments the yin & yang chemistry between Curren$y & Freddie Gibbs near perfectly. If you wanna hear 2 independent vets form like Voltron, then give this a listen.

Score: 4/5