With today being the official release day for Boldy James‘ first Mass Appeal Records release, Trapper’s Alley 2, I had the opportunity to speak with the Detroit rapper about his new music, working with Nas, and many other aspects of his career past, present and future. Read the entire interview with Boldy James below, and head over to Soundcloud to listen to the edited recording, as well.
BOLDY JAMES: What’s the deal?
STONE: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with us, we really appreciate it.
BOLDY JAMES: No hassle.
STONE: You’re currently on tour with PRhyme and Your Old Droog, correct?
BOLDY JAMES: Yessir.
STONE: How’s that going so far?
BOLDY JAMES: Everything’s good. Royce, that’s the big homie from Detroit from the crib, him and his brother, Kid Vishis. I used to rhyme with Kid Vishis back in the day, and Vish just a real n****, [and] Royce [is] a real n****. So he sees me trying to do something positive so he gave me the opportunity to come on the road with him, learn what this hip-hop life’s about.
STONE: It’s crazy with Royce and everyone. How is it performing alongside Royce, Premier and Droog?
BOLDY JAMES: Man, it’s an honor, it’s a pleasure. Royce to me has that Guru light on him right now [with] him and Preemo. They got a nice groove going and they put out a dog ass project. Royce – he’s a legend on the hip-hop scene. He crushes shit, the n***** got one of the craziest flows I’ve ever heard. When you really get to dissecting those bars, it’s substance to that music. He’s not just blowing a bunch of hot air, a bunch of mumbo jumbo. I know Royce personally, and I remember his grind when I was younger before I had my time and my shine to come up and do this. I’d seen some of the adversity Royce had to overcome, so I’m just a fan of 5-9. I got a song with him on my man Dusty McFly’s record. You know, I’ve been fucking with the homie, but now that I get to rock out with him on the road, it’s a privilege. I feel privileged.
STONE: Yeah, no doubt. The tour will end at SXSW in March, right?
BOLDY JAMES: Right.
STONE: How does it feel to return to SXSW? Last year you performed with Nas, and now you’re going back again. How does that all sitting with you?
BOLDY JAMES: Yeah, it’s like the stars are aligning. I love Texas, Austin shows us a lot of love when we’re down there. Even if I didn’t have shows, I still would just go down to SX and just kick it [and] party with the guys and see who’s keeping it real out here in the hip-hop world, because a lot of n***** be faking and flaking. I try to stay away from the n***** that I don’t have nothing in common with. Because with me my music’s real personal, even though everything ain’t personal and most of this music shit is business, but if your music comes from the heart then it should be like something you hold near and dear, it should be personal, you know? I don’t just see me doing a whole bunch of songs with a bunch of n***** I don’t know just because they got names. Soon they’ll be a fame groupie just because they got money and status. That’s not me. I’d rather take the pay cut and just remain a real n****.
STONE: No doubt. I also wanted to congratulate you on your signing to Mass Appeal with Nas.
BOLDY JAMES: Oh yeah, shout out to the big bro, Esco. Looked out for the boy, Bold Blocks. Now we’re at these n***** throats. This Mass Appeal situation is a good look. They ain’t been showing nothing but love and helping me move forward with my music and what I’m doing as an artist. It ain’t nothing but love from Bo Jay to Mass Appeal and vice versa. It’s a great team of people putting in a collective effort towards making sure everybody is happy.
STONE: Mm-hmm. And your new mixtape Trapper’s Alley 2, the project was slated for the end of last year, but it was pushed back. Were you still working on it or did something else happen?
BOLDY JAMES: No, I just be having to stay focused, and try not to drift and move backwards in them streets. I’m almost removed from the streets, so I just be trying to keep a clear head. At that time, I was going through a lot of things with family and friends, and just normal day-to-day shit. N***** go through Detroit who really live that one life, who are really from them streets. So I just be cooling, man, just trying to keep my head clear and focused on the matter at hand and keep my eye on the prize. You know, I got this Mass Appeal situation is the first job I ever had in my life.
STONE: Speaking of that, how involved was Nas and the other signees, Fashawn, Run the Jewels and Bishop Nehru, on this project that you’ve been working on?
BOLDY JAMES: I didn’t actually get to work with Bishop or Fashawn on this particular project, but I was just working with Fash on the Mass Appeal compilation, and me and Fash got records. I’m just waiting on the label to let us know when the situation or the opportunity presents itself for us to put some of the music out; I can’t wait. Fash dope to me. Bishop dope. I had a Nas record that I was supposed to put on Trapper’s Alley , but they told me [to] slam the breaks on that, we’re going to see what that do for the [compilation]. I’ve just been chilling. Everybody who got their names on anything that got anything to do with Boldy James, we’re working. Everything just up and running right now. It ain’t no bad blood on nothing I got going on right now musically.
STONE: Now has Alchemist been involved with your new mixtape at all, being that he executive produced your debut, My 1st Chemistry Set?
BOLDY JAMES: Yeah, Al just showed me a lot of love and support period. I can honestly say I kind of came into the game with Alchemist on my own two. I used to work with The Cool Kids a lot, and I don’t know exactly what their situation is right now, but that’s my family for life and it’s not all about music with me and them. Chuck [Inglish] my cousin, and Mikey [he’s] one of the closest things I feel like I have to a little brother. You know, working on the music tip and just as a friend, that’s really my guy. I love them two guys right there, so everything ain’t about music. But as far as me putting my own body of work out, I came in the game with Alchemist. Al, he’s been nothing but a great help and nothing but supportive. [He’s] just another real genuine, whole-heartedly good n****. Me and Al, we got a couple records I was thinking of using for the album that I had left over from the Chemistry Set, but knowing Al we probably had an opportunity to get in there and re-up and work on whatever the follow-up is from My 1st Chemistry Set.
STONE: So we can expect that you and Alchemist will be getting back in the studio for your sophomore album?
BOLDY JAMES: I would love to get back in the studio with Al and cook up.
STONE: That’d be dope. And speaking of Chuck and the Cool Kids, have they at all been involved with Trapper’s Alley 2?
BOLDY JAMES: Yeah, I mean Chuck [was] the one who [sat] back and told me I should call my first mixtape Trapper’s Alley. And Chuck is a part of everything I do because Chuck, that’s my little cousin, like he knows me, he knows my struggle, he knows my past, he knows my life. So Chuck, when he had talked to me from the bottom of his heart, he be telling a n**** how he really be feeling trying to give me advice, input and insight, career moves, and life in general. Me and him, we got a different type of mind; we got a family bond before all of this fame. Money shit came into play [and] that’s the first n**** I ever started doing music with on the scale of me actually having the confidence and feeling like I can do this on a major level.
STONE: What kind of features and producers – you’ve given us some of the producers – but any features or other artists that would be involved that we can expect on the mixtape?
BOLDY JAMES: Yup, I got features with AZ.
STONE: Oh wow!
BOLDY JAMES: Snootie Wild, Kevin Gates, my big cuzzo Red Handed. The list goes on, man. Producers, it’s a plethora of producers on the project. Go Grizzly, I got a record with JMSN, he produced a song [and is] on the hook. It’s going to be Boldy James if nothing else. I don’t try to keep up with the popularity contests and all that shit. I just be trying to make music for people that can relate to the struggles that I had to overcome and my walks of life. [There’s] a lot of people out there that feel like me because they be rolling around with me in the mud so I know how they’re feeling. Everything ain’t always been good in my world. So I don’t just glorify the shine and the glitz and the glamor, like I take you back to the grimy east side of Detroit or the real west side blocks where n***** I run with. Not them square-dancing ass n***** that just be out here trying to wear a Detroit flag because they’re from the soil, but they didn’t put in our work to be considered nothing, so I ain’t worried about it. Now it’s just a matter of time before the world get a hold of this real shit [and] taking a run with it for what it is and not just “bandwagging” it.
STONE: If you had to describe Trapper’s Alley 2 in one breath, what would you say?
BOLDY JAMES: It’s one of my realist projects, and one of my most solid projects that I done put together thus far. Like having a deadline to meet and having business partners that I’m working with, it’s only going to get more interesting from this point because I made a project to where I didn’t give you too much that I couldn’t come back and grow from. You know how it seems like some artists give you a body of work and it seems like it’s so good that they ain’t never be able to top it? I don’t feel like that about it, but I just feel like it’s solid enough to be the root of everything from this point that I’m trying to do musically. This should let people know like Boldy ain’t really fucking around.
STONE: And did you have anything that you drew on as far as inspiration for the music on the project, like what inspired you to make it?
BOLDY JAMES: Just reflecting on life and being a parent. Just sitting back thinking about how I grew up and how my kids are growing up and seeing the difference. I had a great dad growing up, so I can’t be nothing less than what he was to me. My kids [are] my motivation, so I got to think about the risk vs. reward because I’m risking it all only to reward myself of having things to support and take care of my family and maintain at least the lifestyle they’re used to living. I feel like as long as things don’t go in a downward spiral, and I’m excelling gradually. In life it’s like being a parent and a man and the simple things in life that matter the most, not status. You know even though you got to have a bank roll to even be able to make the moves and take care of your family and live, but money ain’t everything and I’ve been with that because before this rap shit, I mean money it comes and goes, it slips out of my hands. You look up, you’re back [to being] broke at square one trying to figure it back out. I done been through that so many times that my life’s been a real rollercoaster ride. That is my motivation – it’s the risk vs. reward. That’s what inspired the mixtape because I risked so much, that sometimes it feels like the risk’s not worth the reward and vice versa. I’m telling tales of how I’m out here chipping off the block just to make sure everything’s up and running and functioning in my world. I wasn’t one of those kids who was fortunate enough to not put himself in a lot of unnecessary trouble and danger and all that. I was real adventurous growing up so I bumped my head a lot so I had to learn from my own mistakes. I put myself through some things that [were] life-changing, life-threatening situations, but I overcame and I don’t want my kids to ever have to develop like a stomach for the shit I had to stomach out here putting myself through shit that I couldn’t been doing something else. But [that] is what I chose to do. I thought it was a shortcut, but it ended up putting me further behind the line. Now that I’m back to the front of the line with my tray, and still in a position to be able to eat, I just feel like I’m blessed because I wasn’t one of those kids who my parents kept safe so I could be everything I wanted to be. I wanted to play ball growing up so the streets took that from me, and it almost took my life a million times. So for me to even be sitting here having this talk with you and it’s about hip-hop and music and on a positive note, I can’t complain about nothing. If was to clock out right now, I’d damn near feel accomplished. The only thing that would be heavy on my heart is leaving my kids behind without me to guide them and walk them through life as far as I need to get them through their journey before it’s my time to clock out from natural causes. You know, the n**** go the right way instead of by a bullet or by some dirty bitch. So that’s my motivation.
STONE: Do you have something you hope listeners take away after listening to the project?
BOLDY JAMES: I just hope some people don’t take the message the wrong way and run with it and get themselves in a world of trouble. Because I’m not glorifying street life, I’m just speaking from the standpoint of someone [who’s] really been through it firsthand. Just the parameters of safety precautions and shit like that. If you’re going to do it, do it up, don’t play with it. One you get it, you got to live it to live it. N***** never want to see you with it, but fuck them though, you feel me [laughs]. It’s the truth – that’s some of that Esco shit, that’s some of that Nas shit. Man, that n**** was telling n***** the honest-to-God truth. I was one of his biggest fans coming up on the humble tip, because to me, he was a real humble n****. It’s just his flow is so exotic that it’d seem that he’s coming off like an arrogant n**** or a know-it-all sometime, but that’s that New York shit, you know? Now that I’ve been in New York and I’ve learned the people and just the culture of being a New Yorker, they’re just real confident people. They represent and take pride in being New Yorkers. That’s how we feel in Detroit too, so I can relate to the big city boy life. It’s an honor and it’s amazing to me that he actually gave me an opportunity to be heard and do my thing.
STONE: Is there any work being done on your sophomore studio effort at all?
BOLDY JAMES: Yeah I got a million joints stashed. I got like three hundred songs; I can fit them and put an album together ten times over. Just waiting on the opportunity to present itself for when duty calls for me to put out some new heat rocks.
STONE: Do you have any dream collaborations? Features you’d look to grab in the future if you could work with any one person?
BOLDY JAMES: Nah, I mean, you already know the obvious. But no, not really. It ain’t no big deal, I ain’t in no rush. Like I say, when people come around or whenever I’m in the studio with someone that’s willing to work with me, we’ll get it done. I ain’t no star struck n**** man. I’m from Detroit, I know real n***** that don’t rap at all and they’re rich off other shit like hustling, so this shit don’t excite me. I just fuck with the n***** that fuck with me.
STONE: Do you have any last words or shout outs you want to give?
BOLDY JAMES: Shout out to the bully boys – street bullies for life. Plugged everywhere, people earning wealth. Game time mafia, what else? Concreters 227. Let’s get it. Applied pressure boys, hell block hully gully, and raw drugs on 7-6. The whole Detroit, East Warren. Them harper boys, all of that, man. Real D n*****, man. Real D boys all around the world.