The Price of Tea in China is Among the Best of 2020


Reviewed by Sophia Guerrier

If you are talking about the hottest spitter out of Detroit, Boldly James should be the first name to come to mind in any circumstance. No disrespect to Eminem but Boldy James is currently the best lyricist from the midwest in years. Longtime fans of Boldy James would know that the MC has been in the game for over 10 years now, gaining his popularity through Don Cannon mixtapes and being an often affiliate of The Cool Kids. It’s safe to say that James has remained underground until recently (last four years) to which EP’s like “The Art of Rock Climbing” and guest Griselda verses have gained him well-deserved acclaim. His latest drop, “The Price of Tea in China” is unquestionably one of the best projects of 2020 that shows off his effortless play by plays of street life.

It could not have been more fitting that legendary producer, The Alchemist, blessed this tape with his veteran merit which almost seemed like he saved all of his masterful beats for James. Out of all collaborative tapes The Alchemist executive produced this past year, including Conway’s and Freddie Gibbs’, “The Price of Tea in China” metaphorically posed as the Jordan and Pippen combination between a producer and rapper. Stand out instrumentals like “Surf and Turf” and “Scrape the Bowl” exemplifies the full capacity of chemistry that is required to deliver classic-quality tracks from every element within the song. Boldy James cadence intertwines with The Alchemist’s mighty kicks and lethal melodic loops like a weave basket that intensifies James’ poetic drug talk.

James’ may not have boasted a variety of flows like many rappers have made an unsolicited habit of, but it was the correct direction the veteran rapper went in. James’ plain and simple delivery carried the “less is more” appeal that projects of 2020 were not able to quite grasp. James’ reluctance to changing any of his flows throughout the tape maintained the overall incognito, gritty atmosphere that sustained the mobster culture James’ was portraying. The edgy realities of being raised by the streets never once strayed away from the project’s concept because of James’ consistent chronicling of his life; not to mention high-quality demand from the four featured artists who are all skillful wordsmiths themselves.

There are very minimal flaws to James’ second studio album which establishes it as one of the few special tapes of this year. Content and stylistic versatility can be raised as a question of lack of creativity from James’ but that is a minor concern for the sake of this effort. The short length of the album limited loose ends and unnecessary matter that would have derailed the smooth momentum of each song leading into the next. James’ elite penmanship of authoritative punchlines resulted in wordplay that set the bar of what top tier level of gangsta rap should mirror. “The Price of Tea in China” is a highly dignified project but not yet masterful. It is James’ prototype illustration of a masterpiece to come.