Mixtape review-Trappers Alley 2: Risk vs. Reward by Boldy James
At times it feels like Rakim and Big Daddy Kane split the rap world in half. During all the Nas interview interludes on the new Boldy James mixtape Trappers Alley 2: Risk vs. Reward it was all I could think about. Rakim was the prototype stone faced rappers rapper. Calm, cool and changing the rap universe with every verse that is who Nas grew into, that’s what Guru(from Gangstarr) aimed for. While Big Daddy Kane was still changing rap and blowing doors down he made sure it was stylishly, with slick clothes and exciting live shows. He is the blueprint for the east coast player/big time lyricist Biggie and Jay became. On the surface you would think that over time these differences would fade and everything would be everything, but the rift is still there. When Nas went looking for rappers to sign how could he not love Boldy James? Boldy can’t stop rapping and his biggest fault in the past has been that his delivery is so dry his music doesn’t pop like others with wilder deliveries or crazy ad-libs.
On other projects the stark minimalism of the production and the dry bars lulled me into sleeping on Boldy, I’m not going to lie. Even Rakim needed those bouncy dance beats to contrast his flow. Boldy is starting to get beats with more pop to them as his spotlight shines. On Trappers Alley 2: Risk vs. Reward it’s an all star production lineup of Black Milk, JMSN, TM808, and Go Grizzly (not to mention guest verses from Prodigy, AZ, JMSN, and Kevin Gates). Noided pops and crackles with Superfly soundtrack feeling, Big Bank sounds like one of those oddly gorgeous Zaytoven beats, and 2 Craps in A Missout is Black Milk feeding James just enough sound to serve him well like Madlib did for Freddie Gibbs on Pinata.
Production changes are not the story. Boldy James is still the story. Over the course of 20 tracks his verses are everywhere (he can’t even tolerate a rapless intro, he just has to spit). His hooks are big time, Costcos has an undeniably catchy snicker in its delivery. 3D delivers a triumphant THIS IS MY TIME hook on Realist and Boldy manages to temper his braggadocio with paranoid drug talk and family.
Boldy sounds just as comfortable rapping with Prodigy on Off The Wall as Kevin Gates and Snootie Wild on Moment In Time. On first listen this felt like Boldy’s I’ve-found-ATL-production project but over repeated listens I have been left in awe of his love of wordplay, like on Moment in Time when he uses Snooties name to start an avalanche of related rhyming words in his verse. Trappers Alley 2 is not about Boldy James finding the better production he needs; it’s about him finding the bigger production that we need as an audience. By the time you get to the last track (Confessional Cathedral) you get the feeling that he’s rap music’s Ray Allen. He could shoot like this for years and years and on his last day his form would still be perfect. He loves the craft and the discipline in a way a lot of more popular contemporaries can’t lay claim too. Nas recognizes that, the way everyone did when he laid his Live At The Barbeque verse for Main Source.
stream or download Trapper’s Alley 2: Risk vs. Reward below: