Detroit is a city that’s experienced its fair share of hardship: its population has diminished from nearly 2 million to 700,000 over the decades; its been labeled as one of the most dangerous cities in the nation; and the city recently declared the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
But despite all of the adversity that’s fell on Detroit throughout the years, many of its residents remain loyal to their stomping ground and use the hard times as inspiration to keep pushing forward.
Boldy James is one of these people. The up-and-coming rap artist channels the hardships he experiences through his music. Highly-familiar with Detroit’s underworld, his descriptive lyrical delivery is largely encompassed with tales of drug-dealing and the pain that comes with losing countless peers to incarceration and murder. But Boldy tends to provide a balance in topics to his listeners: he occasionally takes breaks from touching on the street life to spit lyrics about his strong belief in God, love for his family, and desire to overcome the odds stacked against him.
Boldy recently dropped his latest mixtape, Jammin’ 30: In the Mornin’, and is currently on tour with legendary hip-hop group Mobb Deep. His debut album, My 1st Chemistry Set, produced entirely by veteran producer Alchemist, will drop October 15th.
Boldy talked about the meaning behind Jammin’ 30: In the Mornin’, how the tour is going, what listeners can expect from his upcoming debut album, possibly releasing a project with his cousin Chuck Inglish (of the Cool Kids) in the future, and much more.
You recently dropped your mixtape, Jammin’ 30: In The Morning. It’s kind of different from your previous mixtapes where you keep features to a minimum. Every song but one has artists featured on it. Was it your intention to do that, or did it just come out that way?
That was my intention, because dudes in my city, or Detroit rather, they been feeling they self a lil’ bit, because they been getting a little recognition in the rap world. But me and my dudes, I always looked at it like, we always won the popularity contest anyway in whatever sport or field we were in. We been doing the music shit, but a lot of people wasn’t taking the music shit serious, because everybody was selling drugs at the time. It was like, ‘I don’t give a fuck about that rap shit, I got a bag.’
At the end of the day, I just wanted to shine light on the real bag boys. Like, niggas that I really know, who really in the hood taking care of their families, working with bare minimum but making it happen. That’s who I wanted on my tape, because those be the stars to me. Those the stars in my eyes. Like, all these rap niggas, just because you got some fans that don’t make you no star in Bo-J. eyes. You can be mu’fuckin’ Puff Daddy, if I meet you and you a fake nigga to me, I don’t fuck wit you period and we’ll never do business or music.
Can you briefly explain the meaning behind your mixtape’s title?
Jammin’ is a different term for grindin’. Niggas be talkin’ bout they on they grind and all that shit, I’m from between 7 and 6 mile, we got slick mouths over there too, so we say we shootin’ jams. We jammin’. Instead of grindin’ and trappin’ and all that shit, we be jammin’. And 30 in the morning, that’s like the rollover hours. When you’ve been up a day or two straight and it’s going into 6 a.m. the next morning but yo’ ass still ain’t been to sleep. That’s 30 in the morning. Like a nigga been up ‘til 30 o’clock.
This is the first mixtape you’ve released with DJs hosting it. What made you take a different route this time around?
You know how you sit at the round table and everybody have a vote and ya’ll gotta come up with an unanimous decision? That’s what that was. That was me and my colleagues. I got outvoted. They told me that I needed some DJs yelling all over this shit. ‘It’s different and it got a little bounce to it.’ It wasn’t the usual hip-hop shop Boldy James. It was the turn it all the way up version. I ain’t a fan of the turn up, dog. On my video for “Turn it down” off Jammin’ 30: In the Mornin’, when it first come on, it’s gonna say, ‘to the death of the turn up.’ I just got outvoted by some of my fellow businessman, and they thought DJ Whoo Kid, DJ BJ, and my personal DJ, DJ Ray Ya Dig should be yellin’ all over the front of my mu’fuckin’ songs and trying to DJ Drama and Don Cannon my shit.
So you’re not a big fan of that, huh?
I’m not a big fan of a lot of shit, man, but you’ve got to try and adjust and kind of meet people in the middle. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Instead of having baby bear pooridge that was too cold, and I didn’t want papa bear pooridge ‘cuz it was too hot, I had to drop that mamma bear pooridge, ‘cuz it was just right. I had to meet my fans in the middle. I can’t just be stingy. A lot of the times, I be talkin’ bout shit that a whole bunch of people don’t give a fuck about but me and my people any way, so that’s already being stingy in one regard, and then for me to jus try to hog all the music to myself too, that wouldn’t be fair.
Does it bother you, when you come into contact with people who aren’t real receptive to your music?
I get that all the time. The problem is, it’s either like, it’s too much for somebody to grasp…it’s like I kind of overdid it for that fan. I could’ve said it a lot simpler for them to understand it better, but I’m not a simple person. I’m not saying I’m a super complicated guy but I’m not a simple-minded, nitwit kind of guy. I put some thought into what I write. I put some feeling into my music, and I try to give you the best Boldy James impression I can give you. I can’t be nobody else. I don’t try to be it. I can’t really hate nobody for not being as responsive to my music, because I’m pretty sure it’s something in my catalog that they’ll fuck with. They might not just be fuckin’ with that particular piece of music.
Has the tour helped you realize that you have a lot more fans than you presumed?
Definitely. I definitely didn’t know I had this many fans. It’s people coming to the Mobb Deep tour that’s not coming to see Mobb Deep. That’s interesting to me. Like, damn, I thought I was just about to ride the wave, ‘cuz I got the Alchemist project coming. Alchemist wanted me to get a little shine before the project dropped, so I could make sure that I caught some fans, and be able to support the album, so we can keep doing what we doing. I gotta make sure the fans are tuning in, and they’re catching up wit this shit that I been on as I been taking this shit serious over the last two years and some change. It’s been interesting.
Hav and P., they some cool cats. It ain’t like I’m on tour with some fake niggas acting like they too big for their britches. I’m on the tour with some real down-to-earth guys. I do good work when I’m with good people and with people that want to see me win. That’s when I’m at my best. I grew up on that Mobb Deep shit, so it’s like an honor for me to even be riding that wave with them.
That was gonna be my next question. I wanted to know if you grew up on Mobb Deep?
Ah yeah. Everybody [in Detroit] did. You see Eminem. He let it be known. “Shook Ones,” that was one of his mu’fuckin’ theme songs. This shit is real bro. Shout out to everybody back at the crib. Shady, Royce Da 5’9, Kid Vicious, my man Marv Won, Fat Ray, all them who be doing they thing in the city on the hip-hop tip.
I fuck with the Mobb Deep shit the long way. Back in the days and shit, before a nigga was getting beats, before a nigga had access to a studio and all that, I was in my room loading pistols up to that Infamous music. I was matching my Nauticas up to that Mobb Deep shit. It was something about they sound that really separated the men from the boys at the time. They got a lot classic records and a lot of classic songs in their archive. A lot of that shit is really some one-of-a-kind shit that nobody can mimic. That’s what makes you stand out the most when it comes to this music shit.
In a lot of your music, I’ve noticed that you make reference to balancing your rap career with the street life and also being a father. How difficult is that for you?
To be honest with you, the hardest thing to do is stay alive. The rest of this shit is a piece of cake. Family is about the most difficult that it gets but I believe in God, so it ain’t nothin’ too difficult, because I know He got it in on everything. He drivin’, so I’m good. Family good. I do what I do in the street, but you can ask my wifey, I ain’t never brought the shit home, other than a couple mile run-ins with the law or some other shit, ya know? I keep that scot-free at the crib, so my kids ain’t really affected at least as much as what the eye can see. On the outside lookin’ in, everything’s peachy and creamy over my way.
When did you begin to seriously view music as a way to permanently leave the street life? Was it before the Trapper’s Alley mixtape?
It was way before that, because I already had got a lot of feedback. It’s just like on the block when you put a tester out and the junkie comes back and tells you if the shit is what it’s supposed to be or not. That’s how I always treated music, like a package, like drugs. I put the shit out on the street, saw how the streets were taking to it, and then I knew if the music was good or not by the response. The stronger the response, the more I forced to get the music on people. I was trying new shit and seeing if they was fuckin’ wit that at the time. Just experimenting, and then I looked up and everybody in the hood was hooked on the shit. They telling me, ‘this is what you need to be doing. I know the street shit is cool but I think you’re better at this then that. I think that this’ll work better for you in the long run, so don’t put all yo’ eggs in one basket, and always keep in the mind that you could possibly write your way out the hood one day, because you’ve got a gift that’s not ordinary.’
In one your interviews, you stated that music keeps you grounded and enables you to overcome whatever you’re going through. What exactly is it about music that puts you in a state of serenity?
I get that serenity feeling, because I’ve been in some real humbling situations before. And I’m from a world where it’s a lot of traffic and a lot of money being generated, so I’ve never been star struck with the simple things. I can only give credit where it’s due when I feel like somebody has actually overcame some type of real adversity, or they got out of a situation unscratched, untouched, ya feel me? The world I’m from, it don’t allow you to have that big head, because as soon as you get that big head, somebody will knock yo’ block off where I’m from. That always humbled me. I get that serenity because I’ve been humbled time and time again.
No matter what I’ve been going through, it’s like the music has always been like a stress reliever. In jail, when I didn’t have drugs, I didn’t have cigarettes, no weed to smoke, or couldn’t run to no Moet bottles, I always had something to write with and a piece of paper, so I could get my scribe on. I’m in that bitch scribing all these mu’fuckin’ lyrics up, and it’s actually helping me feel better. No matter how much I’m going through it or how hard it is at the time or no matter what the situation is, the music has always been my backbone. It’s always been something I could lean on. It was like a brother. It was like one of the best friends I’ve ever had in the world. [And] the music reminded me of everything that I lost. I remember when I was writing the shit and who was there and what inspired me to actually write those lyrics up like that. Now by them not being here, I can always look back at the music like, ‘damn, I miss my bro,’ but he’s still in the music. He lives through that.
Who are some of the people that Boldy James is listening to right now?
First of all, shout out to the Cool Kids. I listen to Chuck Inglish. He’s real Spacely Sprocket. He’s gotta wide range when it comes to his sound. He’s so unpredictable. Chuck, to me, made a sound that I’ve never even heard before. That “Jimbo” shit is so different, man. And “Gettin’ Flicked” and “For the Birds.” Chuck is ill, man. People don’t give him his credit.
I listen to Sir Michael Rocks. French Montana. I listen to Rick Ross. Alotta Gucci [Mane]. I like to have fun when I’m listening to the music too. But when I’m listening for lyrics, well, I guess the people I just named are pretty lyrical, but of course the legends like Jay-Z, Nas. I like most of Kendrick Lamar’s stuff.
I’m from Alabama. Well, I guess you can say Chattanooga, TN. I moved there when I was young, but I gotta wide range of music I listen to.
I just wanted to know where you was from asking me about Juan. Let me tell you something about Street Lord Juan. Free Street Lord Juan. That was a real Detroit nigga right there. When you speak of Street Lord Juan, you’re talking real Detroit City shit, man. He’s responsible for a lot of niggas that’s getting some burn right now. Like Big Sean, Dusty McFly, [and] he had something to do with that whole Blade Icewood run. That Street Lordz run. Them niggas was real niggas. Shout out to my nigga K-Deezy. 41 Cashout.
You’re releasing your debut album, My 1st Chemistry Set, which is produced entirely by Alchemist, this October. What can listeners expect from the project?
It’s not gonna sound shit like 30 in the Mornin’. It’s going to be a different galaxy. Y’all know Al is a walking trippy stick. You gotta watch him. He’s the one. He might be the coldest producer on earth. That guy is a real genius. He’s a real brainiac. [And] the content is always gonna be Boldy James. It’s hard for me to give you something different until I know something different. Rap ain’t really took me to that world and out of this element of street life, so it’s definitely gonna still be street life. It’s definitely gonna still be Alchemist. It’s definitely gonna still be Boldy James. You just gotta know that Algebraic expression. You gotta know what that equals. That’s all. It’s gonna sound like just what you think it’s gonna sound like, if you know Alchemist and you know Boldy James.
I got Philadelphia Freeway on there. I got King Chip. I got Vince Staples. Earl Sweatshirt. Domo Genesis. Action Bronson. I got my sister Mafia Double Dee. I got my man Peechie Green from Detroit City.
How’d you come up with the album’s title?
I named it My 1st Chemistry set, because Alan is the chemist and I’m a chemist too. We just cook up different shit, ya feel me? That’s what it put me in the mind frame of. When we were workin’, it just really felt like we were in the laboratory stirring up some shit and causing chemical explosions and shit. That’s what it felt like, bro. And for it to be with the Alchemist, knowing I grew up listening to his music and shit, it was really like more so of an honor. I felt like I didn’t want to let him down being there and that really was what it was.
You recently dropped “Moochie.”
That’s my nickname in the neighborhood. They call me Lil’ Moochie.
I remember you mentioning that name on the song, “Long Run.”
Yup. That’s my nickname. But that name had got hot, so I had to leave that name alone for a long time. I became Boldy, so everybody was ‘ Boldy, Boldy, Boldy’ and they were talking less and less about Moochie. It was more healthier for my rap career. But when people can see my face, and they can put the face with the name, they probably be damn near ready to throw they remote through the TV.
“Moochie” is similar to Big L’s “Ebonics.” Was it your intention to follow a similar format as him on your song?
Not at all. I’m definitely a Big L fan but that wasn’t my intention. Like, everybody who know me, who know Moochie, they know that’s all Moochie do. Moochie is the guy who gives everybody they name in the neighborhood, and they take them and wear them bitches with no problem. They don’t even dispute the shit. Like, I name all the blocks. I name all the neighborhoods. I’m the nicknamer. I give everybody the nicknames. I talk slang everything, so [that song] was really light work. If I was to really talk to y’all how I talk, nobody would understand a lot of the shit I say. I gotta pour that on y’all slow so people can catch up with the slang and know why I say the shit I say and know what it mean. Even if you don’t know what I’m talkin’ about, you hear the manner in which I use the term and then you should be able to put the definition together from that.
Have you ever thought about doing a full album with your cousin Chuck Inglish?
I got two, three albums with Chuck. That’s who I came in the game with. You don’t think me and Chuck got some shit in them computers, man? Ah, me and Chuck got a stash so crazy. All I gotta do is mix that shit up. If I mixed that shit up and actually told y’all when it came out, and I could have like that “Lost Tapes” effect, that might be the greatest shit ever. That might be the dopest shit I come out with, ‘cuz Chuck caught me in rare form. Chuck caught me when music almost didn’t matter any more. Like, I was almost convinced that I was about to sell drugs the rest of my life.