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Boldy James Breaks Down Life-Threatening Experience Throughout “Penalty of Leadership” Prod. by Nicholas Craven (Album Review)

This is the 8th proper full-length LP from Detroit veteran 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 Mass 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 as 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”. The last I covered Boldy’s music was in 2022 for the critically acclaimed Fair Exchange No Robbery produced by Nicholas Craven & Mr. 10-08 produced by Futurewave respectively. However in light of teasing Penalty of Leadership with Craven over the last couple months, we’re getting it at long last to ring in the new year.

“Formal Invite” is a soulful opener to the album assuring that every wish will be granted whereas “Jack Frost” works in another high-pitched vocal sample talking about being quick to rip the tag off after money being put on your head. “Evil Genius” goes into more synth-heavy direction wishing all the bros were here with him in this moment just before “Murderous Tendencies” says it all conceptually with yet another soul flip.

Continuing from there, “No Pun Intended” shifts into chipmunk soul territory so Bo Jack can talk about feeling like Thanos prior to the lead single “Brand New Chanel Kicks” going drumless making it clear that “this drug zone shit is so for real”. “Straight As” brings back the soulful vibes boasting that he been on his game time shit, but then “Soccer Mom” shooting for a calmer approach instrumentally talking about the 227 Concreatures being the ones.

The song “Early Worms Get Birds” featuring Double D might be the weakest on the album mainly because the latter’s guest appearance is simply alright to me despite the boom bap production & Boldy’s lyrics declaring to be a new sheriff in town while the chipmunk soul-inflicted penultimate track “Speedy Recovery” advises to sit back & take notes. “All My Tokens” closes Penalty of Leadership by jumping over guitars looking to stack his tokens up.

Fair Exchange No Robbery is one of Boldy’s strongest LPs ever, so I was more excited for this considering that it was literally the very first album that he ever recorded after being released from the hospital due to the car crash he was in & did it ever. He’s pretty much saying what’s on his mind after going through a life-threatening experience & Craven’s sample-heavy production is a step above the last one he did with the Detroit icon.

Score: 9/10

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