Boldy James & Nicholas Craven Release Autobiographically Conceptual “Fair Exchange, No Robbery” (Album Review)

This is the 5th full-length album from Detroit emcee Boldy James. Breaking out in the fall of 2013 off his Alchemist produced debut M.1.C.S. (My 1st Chemistry Set). He would later go on to land a contract with Nas’ independent label lMass Appeal Records for a little while before getting locked up but once Boldy came home, Uncle Al would help get his name back out there once getting out by dropping the Boldface EP around Christmas 2019 & then the sophomore album The Price of Tea in China at the beginning of last year. This was followed up with the Sterling Toles-produced Manger on McNichols which was equally fantastic, but the Griselda Records-backed Versace Tape EP was a tad bit disappointing given how rushed it was. Bo Jackson though would become his most critically acclaimed work to date & Super Tecmo Bo was almost as great for an EP despite IceColdBishop’s verse on “Hot Water Tank”, so I was thrilled when it was announced that Nicholas Craven was fully producing Fair Exchange, No Robbery right here.

“Straight & Tall” is a jazzy yet soulful opener to the album spitting the memoirs of an orphan whereas “Stuck in Traffic” works in a 70’s soul sample to get in his storytelling bag vividly talking about getting them bricks going.“Scrabble” has more drumless territory with Boldy spitting some braggadocio, but then “Town & Country” keeps the drumless vibes going with it’s twangy yet ghostly piano-laced loop looking back on the life of crime.

Gue Wop has the only feature on this album on the groovy “0 Tre 9” welcoming Boldy back home from when he got out of prison in December 2019 prior to the pandemic just before “Monterey Jack” has a more western influence to the beat threatening anyone who dares to step up to him. “Designer Drugs” goes full blown jazz rap spitting that mafioso shit leading into the guitar/keyboard-laced “6 Toes” repping his people. The penultimate track “You Ain’t a Menace” brings back to the soul samples calling out someone whom Boldy doesn’t consider to be a threat to him & “Power Nap” closes out the album with a chipmunk soul talking about being under the influence.

Considering that both of these guys are of the biggest names in the respective Detroit/Canadian hip hop scenes right now, it was only a matter of time they joined forces for an album & it’s one of Boldy’s best yet. Lyrically, I feel like has a more of an autobiographical concept throughout & highly respect him for doing that with Nicholas Craven continuing to cement himself as of the best producers in the game right now with his remarkable drumless/chipmunk soul production.

Score: 9/10

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