Boldy James & The Alchemist – Super Tecmo Bo (Review)

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Our 2021 Alchemist recap playlist is on the way as well!

The fifth collab project between all-time great producer The Alchemist and one of Detroit’s darkest MCs, Super Tecmo Bo is both a natural progression for the duo and a timely gift for fans. Having dropped the strong, versatile Bo Jackson LP only back in August, this project feels like more than a de facto deluxe; It is it’s own distinct and arguably better project.

Sonically, Super Tecmo Bo is consistently more rich, understated, and optimistic than Boldy and Al’s usual work together. In fact, it is most comparable to The Versace Tape. Full of luxurious instrumentation – including ascending pianos, jazz horns, drawn out strings, and even whistles – it is actually the drums which continue to separate The Alchemist from every other producer in the game. Always perfectly mixed and lively, they remain his greatest strength. The beats perfectly fit Boldy’s mafia mentality and the duo continues to show why they’re a perfect match. “Bumps & Bruises” features a nostalgic saxophone loop with dreamy keys which inspire him to mull over his growth and position in the game. “Moth in the Flame” is the album’s greatest, most cinematic highlight and arguably one of the best Alchemist beats ever. Evoking the image of a late night helicopter flight through the city, Boldy raps double time over a fast piano base and subtle winds.

Always make sure I put on a show whenever I perform
I ain’t go to college, but I cut the blow in the dorms
But this ain’t nothing I been on
I been shedding more than tears 

A classic cut featuring Vince Staples from Boldy and Al’s 2013 LP, My First Chemistry Set

Boldy’s rapping is distinct from past collabs as well. The hooks tend to be pretty lowkey, sometimes just acting as intros and outros. He often opts for bridges instead. There’s also plenty of room on these beats for Boldy to shine with far more standout and chronological writing than Bo Jackson, where he had greater emphasis on hooks and energy. The flows are straightforward, but in a lyrically engaging way rather than a boring one. He also sounds much more mature and meditative here than on any other project (excluding Manger on McNichols). That’s not to say he was never introspective or misguided; Rather, Super Tecmo Bo sees Boldy reflecting as an OG. While he might not be overtly ashamed of the dark deeds he raps about, he discusses it all frankly, with time and distance between them and himself. He might be in deep, but he sounds a bit tired of it all: The loss, the stress, and the bullshit. On “No Laughing Matter”, he raps:

Any drug, I done sold it, when I shoot a gun I unload it
Spent most of my twenties living on the run, it was bogus
Son of a gun so you know murder one was the motive

Boldy’s technical game, wordplay, and imagery are as tight as ever. He presents a collage of street tales chock full of internal rhymes in the most casual tone. The album’s lone feature is IceColdBishop, perhaps best known for his feature on Grip’s Snubnose, where he raps like his whole career depends upon it. “Hot Water Tank” sees Bishop with his uniquely high pitched and choppy flow deliver a menacing yet clever set of bars.

Overall, Super Tecmo Bo is among Boldy and Al’s greatest work. They sound freshly inspired and are not simply rehashing their past successes.

Listen to Super Tecmo Bo here:


Apple Music

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