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Boldy James & The Alchemist - The Price of Tea in China (Album Review)

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

I know this album has been out for a while, but I put off listening to it so I could review it when I found the time. With no real interesting drops this week, I thought why not dive into this album from gritty rapper Boldy James and legendary producer The Alchemist with 'The Price of Tea in China' to see what they can cook up.

The Alchemist is on production so of course you get what you expect with catchy boom bap drums, gorgeous soul samples, deep guitar bass' and immaculate instrumentals from start to finish. 'Run-Ins' has these incredibly nice sounding vocal samples as well as fast paced drums and a bouncy, soulful feel as he talks about run ins with the law and the lifestyle on the streets. With some great one liners he provides a solid, vivid verse, "The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat", as the immaculate production and dominant presence from James make this track a great one. 'Speed Demon Freestyle' has this great beat with jazzy wind instruments that come in every now and then and head bobbing drums as he touches on many things such as drug dealing, smoking weed, money, prison, guns and loss of friends. James uses great, heavy bars throughout and it's better than the last few songs on the project with more of an interesting delivery, flow and more of a punch to it. 'Phone Bill' has a nice beat to end things off with soulful vocals and a nice guitar melody as he hits us with hard hitting lines and decent storytelling to look back and reflect on his youth on the streets. It's probably the least enjoyable tracks however because after 11 tracks you get nothing new from James and this track in particular seems such a chore to get through.

James himself on here has some gritty and hard bars throughout, as well as having a way of painting an image in your head with his words. This is shown on the track 'Giant Slide', "Let that pole bang, wipe the tears from his mama eyes", as James talks on his life in the streets, his drug dealing and attacking the opps. The booming boom bap drums and chaotic hard piano sound amazing and once again the track just ran smooth with the effective stripped back production. 'Slow Roll' also has some pretty great bars from Boldy James, "Stuff a bitch // with a thousand Xanax in a jimmy hat // Hothead with a heated temper, quick to Windex a n**** fitted cap // Right hand man the grim reaper, index finger, don't trigger that", as he talks on the hood life & drug dealing over these deep drums and stripped back but moody atmosphere created from the instrumental. It's a good song but with a bit more energy from James it could've been better, he just sounded at times like he was asleep. There are moments on this however where lyrically he's pretty uninteresting, such as on the short track 'Mustard'. As usual the beat is pretty nice but it's not one of the most interesting on here as he talks on gold diggers in the hood and shooters. It's got quite the repetitive flow and just overall really meh track which sounds like the others but less mean. His smooth and effortless flow as well as his deep, mean delivery sound right in place over these soulful beats - though at times this isn't always the case (as you'll come to read).

The features selected are all in James' lane and all do a good job. Vince Staples is on the track 'Surf & Turf' and talks about how fierce he is as well as reflecting on making it big with hard bars, nice metaphors and a solid flow. Boldy James talks about his drug dealing past over this eerie piano and loud crashing hi hats with some great bars, "Real n***** like Nipsey give a hood n**** hope". The hook is laid down nicely, Boldy's delivery is mean and sounds great over this track and once again it's another fine track on this album. BENNY THE BUTCHER from Griselda hops on the track 'Scrape the Bowl' as the pair talk on classic coke rap content over this aggressive synth line and twinkling piano's. Benny's verse is great and his gritty delivery sounds great over the darker beat while James gives us a strong verse as the chemistry between them is apparent, and it was just a gritty and dark track which sounds so mean and so good. Evidence joins the rapper on 'Grey October' and he sounded good over this beat with hard bars all throughout, "Two different careers like I'm two different people // Two different years, one life, no sequel", but his flow was quite repetitive although it didn't really ruin the momentum. The track talks on drug dealing and all that's been on his mind over this naked, but soulful mood created by the few guitar strings but again it isn't James' best performance with a repetitive flow and low energy. The beat's great and lyrically it's strong so once again it's decent but it could've been better.

Content wise it's as you'd expect a coke rap project so he focuses on his drug dealing past and his youth living in the hook. Its nothing too different from other coke rap projects but he paints a picture of his story in his shoes. The introduction to the album 'Carruth' sets up the key themes talking about where he's from, how he had to live and the violence he's dealt with as well as his drug dealing past. The bars are hard, the imagery vivid, the soulful beat amazing and it's a great introduction to the album. 'Pinto' is also another track about his drug dealing past over this nice guitar melody as he gives us detailed and insightful bars into his past. It's a decent song, just easily the least enjoyable so far because he doesn't sound as hungry on this track, and while the bars are detailed and insightful I can't say they keep me gripped - it's alright just nothing more. The production is still perfect however. Drug dealing is a common topic on 'S.N.O.R.T' and is assisted by an expert in this department, Freddie Gibbs, who does his thing on here despite the fact Boldy James again is at one of his least interesting moments lyrically within the tracklist. Overall it was quite the mid song and Gibbs definitely had the stronger performance.

To conclude, this is another good coke rap album from 2020 full of hard bars, a solid flow (for the most part), gritty delivery and great production throughout. I enjoyed this for the most part, and while it doesn't stand out too much it's very enjoyable. The transitions are smooth, and The Alchemist really outperformed Boldy James on here because the low points are usually low due to him. It can be one dimensional at times and that means to back-end of this album falls off because it gets tiring, boring and just really plain at points - however there is definitely more highs than lows and overall it's still a good project.

FAVOURITE TRACKS: Carruth, Surf & Turf, Scrape the Bowl, Grey October


OVERALL RATING: Light 7.5/10

*REVISED SCORE: Review may not match favourite tracks and overall rating because I've since re-listened and changed my score.*

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