Last week in this space, I wrote that something really incredible would have to come along to keep Boldy James from getting Mixtape Of The Week. Well, some very good things did come along. Big K.R.I.T.’s 4Eva N A Day, entirely a solo affair, is also the man’s most personal work to date, and its production is simply gorgeous in a sleepy, nothing-to-prove way. 8Ball’s Premro is hard, intuitive tough talk from a lifer who sounds great even when he’s on cruise control. My friend Brandon Soderberg at Spin would have you believe that longtime T.I. underling Big Kuntry King eclipsed everything with his new 100% King. But despite all that, I’m still giving this one to Boldy. Sorry, everyone. Thanks for playing.
Boldy is a Detroit rapper whose biggest look to date is probably his appearance on the Cool Kids’ When Fish Ride Bicycles album; Consignment even includes a song about how happy he is to be down with the Cool Kids. But that affiliation turns out to be pretty misleading with regards to what sort of music Consignment actually includes. This is heavy, bleak, joyless gangsta music, the kind that owes a ton to darkly literary New York holdouts like Cormega and Mobb Deep. (Boldy’s voice even sounds exactly like Prodigy’s from time to time.)
But this isn’t the sort of mid-’90s revivalism that younger rappers are usually practicing when they adapt those guys as spirit animals. Instead, the music looks simultaneously forward and back. There’s plenty of soul-sample boom-bap genre essentialism, but the beautifully mastered, high-fidelity tape spends as much time playing around with weird sounds that fit firmly within the current internet-underground moment. “Snow Blowers” is chilly and withdrawn synth-rap evilness; it sounds nice next to Clipse’s Hell Hath No Fury. “White Dresses (Blow)” sounds like something you should hear blasting out of a nuclear submarine. “Shooter” could be early-’00s grime. There are a few bad ideas, like the R&B interpolations of “Under The Bridge” and Soulja Boy’s “Turn My Swag On.” But this generally isn’t the sort of rap mixtape that thrashes around trying to grab your attention. Instead, it creeps into your headspace and stays there.
The track has a ton of guests, but they’re mostly total unknowns; only the two Cool Kids and Chicago tough guy Count (of the L.E.P. Bogus Boys) were names I immediately recognized. And they all seem to occupy the same sort of mental space as Boldy, who’s a low-key and menacing presence throughout his own tape. Boldy’s not the sort of rapper who cranks out one quotable punchline after another. Instead, he sinks deep into the track, letting his forbidding rasp do the talking. He dabbles in breathless crime scene storytelling (on “Bank Jackin”) and heartbroken world-is-fucked American-underbelly blues (on “Nothing Can Save Us”), but he’s mostly happy to issue brutal threats without raising his voice. And it works.
Consignment is almost shockingly huge in scope. Its 26 tracks are all fully realized songs; there’s not a skit or an intro in the bunch. And the whole thing is just compulsively listenable, a long and sprawling anger-trip. Plenty of people can make hard but sleepy-eyed rap music, but not man people are doing it this compellingly. Consignment is its own cold little world, and it’s a good place to visit.