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Boldy James (Photo: Zhamari Harrison/Griselda Records)
Boldy James (Photo: Zhamari Harrison/Griselda Records)

Interview: Q&A

Boldy James talks COVID-19, coming to Canada, Griselda Records & latest music

One of the biggest consequences of the global pandemic has been the impact on new ventures and small businesses. There’s been countless heartbreaking stories of aspiring entrepreneurs who opened their first store or restaurant just before COVID-19 hit, only to have to shutdown due to the financial impact on the business.

The music business has been largely impacted the same way. Countless artists had a key source of income eliminated with restrictions on events, and many rappers have seen the momentum they were building fizzle out because of it. Not everyone is able to switch to an online-only approach to growing a music career, and keeping it moving in a progressive direction during uncertain times is much easier said than done.

Others have had no problem adapting to the times, and that’s been especially true for Griselda Records recording artist Boldy James. The Detroit emcee has experienced an overall boom in his popularity in 2020, and he continues to makes noise with new moves and releases. While being restricted from touring and doing live shows, Boldy’s streaming numbers remain steadily on the incline.

Boldy James

Boldy James (Photo: Zhamari Harrison/Griselda Records)

Boldy made his official studio album debut back in 2013 with My 1st Chemistry Set, produced entirely by legendary hip-hop beatsmith The Alchemist. Even before then, back in 2010 Boldy surfaced as a guest feature on a few EPs by his cousin Chuck Inglish and Chuck’s popular group The Cool Kids.

Boldy James spent most of his time as a youth living on the west side of Detroit, not far from the Canadian border. This is where he would learn the majority of his street lessons and where he earned a substantial amount of street credit. The “Surf & Turf” rapper would get his name from an old friend also named James that has since passed away. Boldy now carries the name to pay homage to that friend who met his demise in the streets several years ago.

In 2014, Boldy would sign his first record deal with Nas’ label Mass Appeal Records where he would go on to put out three mixtapes and one studio album. This would pave the way for his most exciting and intriguing move of 2020, signing with Buffalo, NY-based Griselda Records, founded by Westside Gunn. Griselda is becoming one of the most successful indie labels in the game, and the move opens the door to some potentially massive collaborations for Boldy down the road.

Boldy James

Westside Gunn & Boldy James

Boldy James is exactly what the hip-hop scene is missing right now as the game has become noticeably watered down lyrically since the days of Biggie and 2Pac. I recently had a chance to connect with him to chat about his latest moves and other things we thought the fans would be curious about.

Along with the interview, we bring you his recently released video for “Bernadines” directed by Avocado. “Bernadines” is the lead single off his album, The Price of Tea and China, which was also produced entirely by The Alchemist. The video has been viewed just under 250K time since its release in mid-July.

“Some 20 seconds into the first proper song of The Versace Tape, we hear a sultry voice whisper ‘Griselda’—calling card of the Buffalo-originating record label of popular MCs Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, and Benny the Butcher.” – Apple Music

More recently, Boldy released The Versace Tape on Griselda on Aug. 14. It features Elcamino, Westside Gunn, Keisha Plum, and Tiona Deniece.

Check out the interview below.

Q&A: Boldy James

HipHopCanada: What’s up Boldy James! Thanks a lot for taking the time to speak with us today and congrats on all of your recent success. We are watching it all from up here just north of the border in Toronto. Generally speaking, what has 2020 been like for you so far?

Boldy James: It’s been going good. The music has been going good. All my family, friends and other relationships are all up to par so I really can’t complain about nothing at the moment.

HipHopCanada: How has the coronavirus outbreak effected your music production and creation process this year? obviously, it hasn’t managed to slow you down too much given all the new fans and recent press you’ve been getting.

BJ: It has probably stopped me from making a lot of money as it has stopped me from being able to tour and do shows, but at the end of the day, I’m just happy things are still moving in the forward direction. I’ll also say I went out with a bang with Griselda right before corona hit as we were touring then. But at the end of the day, things are gonna pick back up again so I’m gonna maintain in the meantime.

HipHopCanada: Living in Detroit you must have a lot of knowledge of Canada being just across the river from Windsor, Ontario. Have you ever gotten the chance to visit Canada at all?

BJ: Yeah, I’ve been to Canada. I use to go to Don Cherry’s Restaurant all the time in Windsor. Then I actually got banned from Canada as I got caught at the border with marijuana. They should let me back now that it’s legal there but it’s been years since I got banned. I don’t play with border so I haven’t tried to come back as I didn’t want to get in trouble again.

HipHopCanada: Do you plan on organizing a tour across North America and possibly Canada once the borders open up again and things go back to normal?

BJ: Yes, that is exactly the plan. It will most likely be another Griselda line up, or possibly Freddie Gibbs, but it will be something like that.

HipHopCanada: Do you feel it’s important to keep the art of traditional emceeing in mainstream hip-hop the way artists like yourself and the rest of Griselda do?

BJ: Of course, it’s important, I mean its first nature. It comes naturally to me and I just do what I do. I really don’t try to make it any more special than what anyone else does, I just do what I do. I am more of an artsy, chill and laid-back individual so the music will reflect that.

HipHopCanada: Detroit is known for hip-hop legends such as Eminem, D12, Royce, Big Sean, Trick Trick and J Dilla. Who would you describe as your influences from Detroit and outside of city?

BJ: I don’t really have a lot of musical influences, but of course Eminem and Big Sean have made their mark in music out of Detroit. Most of my influences out of Detroit are drug dealer niggas that don’t rap and don’t give a fuck about none of this shit. They just do what they do and feed their family.

HipHopCanada: What would you think about legends like 2Pac and Biggie?

BJ: I personally never got a chance to meet either of the those two but for the record, Biggie was my all-time favorite more so than anyone else. I always respected Jay’s hustle more than anybody else but I also thought Nas always had a high level of raw talent.

HipHopCanada: Most of your fans are aware that you and Chuck Inglish of The Cool Kids are cousins. When you first appeared on their material, it got a lot of people talking. Was Chuck the one who would push you into pursuing this as a career, or was that always your intention?

BJ: I actually pushed Chuck Inglish into pursuing a career in hip-hop as he is my little cousin, so it’s actually the other way around.

HipHopCanada: How did it feel to have some of your oldest recorded material be brought to life while working with Sterling Totes on Manger on McNichols? Was it cool to be able to use that material again after so long?

BJ: I guess so, if people respect it, if it had been a failed attempt I guess I might have a different view on it. But Sterling is my brother and I knew the music was good when we were making it so I don’t really hesitate or fret to really put something out that I created unless the situation calls for something else. I’m not afraid to put anything I create out, but it is what it is.

HipHopCanada: It’s been mentioned that some of the vocals off Manger on McNichols date back to 2007. If you were to listen to both projects released this year back-to-back, what would you say is the clear difference artistically?

BJ: One is just more kind then then the other. One was based out of Detroit and the other was created in California, so there is a big difference. A 20-year gap between projects you know?

HipHopCanada: The Griselda connection seems to be a perfect fit you, and also one we were all excited to see. Knowing that the Griselda work ethic is miles ahead of everyone else, does this put any sort of pressure to deliver more material in a shorter time frame? (side note RIP to DJ Shay).

BJ: No not at all, to be honest over the last few days I’ve probably did like eight records so not at all. I always put out a lot of music anyway. In this year alone, what month is it now? Almost September? I’ve might have done about 300 records, easy.

Boldy James at the Nipsey Hussle Memorial

Boldy James at the Nipsey Hussle Memorial

HipHopCanada: You have completed two studio albums with The Alchemist, the latest being The Price of Tea in China which is actually one of my personal favorite hip-hop records of 2020. Why do you feel you and The Alchemist have such great musical chemistry together that it continues to provide opportunities to produce full length records?

BJ: Alchemist is my brother and we will always continue to work together. There are a few other producers that I work with and am close with but Al is one of the more crazy and feared producers in the game. People seem to take what me and him do more seriously so that’s all really.

HipHopCanada: I have watched a few podcast shows you have done with Elliott Wilson one them being the “Car Test” you did also featuring The Alchemist as well. How was that experience?

BJ: That’s my guy, I love everything they are doing over there at Roc Nation. Eliott just happens to be the guy that’s interested in the underground scene of artists who are making noise and he shows a lot of interest and love. He has helped me promote and big up what I do so a lot of respect to my nigga Eliott. We are close and have a good relationship. I respect his journalism and he respects my artistry.

HipHopCanada: What are you plans moving forward now that The Versace Tape has been released? I think we all want to see something with Daringer in the future.

BJ: I got a bunch of Daringer records in the stash already so I’ve been working with Daringer, you know what I’m saying? That’s my bro, we got a great relationship too. Of course, there will be a project sometime in the future.

HipHopCanada: Just to wrap up, HipHopCanada and myself would like to personally thank you for chatting with us tonight. The best of luck to you in the future with your music and we look forward to seeing you on the stage up here in Canada one day.

BJ: Thank you.


Artwork for The Versace Tape

Artwork for The Versace Tape

Written by Kyle McNeil for HipHopCanada
Photography by Zhamari Harrison For Griselda Records

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