For “Studios Sessions,” we delve into the stories behind the long hours in the studio and all that goes into making an album by talking with artists, producers, engineers, photographers, and more who are intimately connected to the recording process with some of the biggest artists in the world. These are the stories that rarely leave the booth.
Boldy James’ music sounds like it emerged from the mud and wears the grime as a badge of honor. He dropped an album of the year contender in February with his The Price of Tea in China LP with Alchemist and shortly after that, he spent a week crafting a Jay Versace-produced album, The Versace Tape.
“West[side Gunn] got a portable studio. A couple of sessions were in Atlanta at his crib. I had sessions in the hotel room in Houston. Uncle Bun B was present,” James told REVOLT. “I recorded in another Airbnb in Houston. I was working. Everywhere we were stopping, if we felt the need to get some work in right there and then, that’s what we did.”
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” James talks The Versace Tape, balancing fatherhood with the hustle, and already having another project with Alchemist in the works. Read below.
You already dropped The Price of Tea In China with Alchemist in February. When did this Versace Tape with Jay Versace happen?
[Westside] Gunn had a set of beats to the side he was going to work on for him and Roc Marciano’s project. Somewhere along the lines, he felt it was necessary for me to take the Boldy James approach over the beats. We sat back and started on the beats in Atlanta. We went to Houston, we went to Alabama. I went to Mississippi, Detroit, California, and then back to Atlanta. By the time the project was complete, it was done in a week’s timeframe. It maybe was around June. I didn’t meet Jay Versace until after the project was complete when I went to California.
Why did you do all that flying around?
Nah, there wasn’t really flying. We drove. I flew a little. I was with Gunn. We move around a lot. Broadie is unpredictable. He just moves around a lot because when you have a lot to lose, you can’t be predictable. We aren’t your typical dudes that can be in one spot. I mean, we can. But, if someone comes over with some dumb s**t, it’s going to be a shootout. So, to just avoid that, we stay moving.
So, did you record to Jay Versace’s beats, finish the project, and then tell him you two had a project together?
No. Jay and West must’ve already had an understanding of what was going on. Once it was complete, West let me know everything that was going on and how we were going to go about the game plan of it. By the time I met Jay Versace, the project was done and it was understood what was going on.
This Versace Tape is brutally honest. You talked about “quarantining with the felons” on the song “Brick Van Exel.” Was that inspired by someone’s actual experience?
That’s why I say, “Every time I met up with the plug, it felt like setup/Lil cuz, he facing letters.” “Letters” mean life. That means they ain’t giving him numbers, they’re giving him letters. I just said, “I just told him, ‘Keep his head up’/Only thing that I can tell him/quarantining with the felons.” “Quarantine” is the process you go through in jail, as well. What you do is you go through a quarantining process to make sure you’re not taking any illnesses and infections in there with the rest of the prisoners. So, I was talking about myself.
Your lyrics are so vivid. Have you ever changed a song because you may have been too honest?
Yeah, there’s been a bunch of those songs, now that I think about it. But, in my last five years of making music, I haven’t had to change anything because I’m very mindful of what I say on records. I’m really being humble about it because I can really say some incriminating s**t that can hurt me and people I love, and can possibly put some people away in jail. I’m definitely mindful of what I say. I’m not the n**ga to go in the booth and say the first thing that come into my head to make some s**t that rhyme with it, so my fans can be thrown off because they want something that’s so unpredictable that I have to say the most far-left s**t in my brain. I’m not one of [those] kind[s] of people. All my people dead. I never had a bunch of friends or family members who rapped. All of my n**gas are killers, robbers, kidnappers, and s**t. They’re either dead, in jail, cripple. We go through real s**t in the ghetto. That’s what my music reflects.
You said The Versace Project was recorded in a week. Where did you record it?
West got a portable studio. A couple of sessions were in Atlanta at his crib. I had sessions in the hotel room in Houston. Uncle Bun B was present. I recorded in another Airbnb in Houston. I was working. Everywhere we were stopping, if we felt the need to get some work in right there and then, that’s what we did.
How did you go about structuring this project?
When I work, it’s usually geared around street s**t. That’s why it all makes sense because a lot of times I don’t have any intention on making it make sense to the fans. I’m just working. When you hear something in its entirety, we’ve been sitting back like, “OK, this song might be suitable for this and this song might be suitable for that.” But, sometimes that s**t just comes together as is, like The Versace Project. Gunn literally damn near organized it the same way it was recorded. What you got is all that I did. I didn’t do anymore than what I’m giving.
What does Boldy James need in the studio?
I just need some good weed and some water. I can work in any environment. I’ve worked in environments where there weren’t any studios or beats. Anytime I got locked up, I was still writing raps. I’m not no bougie n**ga. I ain’t one of them prissy, pansy-ass n**gas who act like a diva and need to record in big studios and certain s**t needs to be tailor-fit to what they need it to be catered to or they don’t feel the energy to create. I’m from the ghetto. I come from nothing. I’m not content with having nothing, but I know where I’m from. So, it doesn’t bother me. I could work in a whole in the wall, bulls**t Fruity Loops studio (laughs).
Out of your favorite songs on The Versace Tape, which one has a recording session that was memorable?
Yeah, I like “Roxycontin” because Keisha Plum’s poetry is so beautiful. The sample was saying, “Your life was meaningless.” She gave the perfect description of how meaningless your life was to her. She’s great at what she does. I love Keisha Plums. The work she did on that song is some of the dopest s**t in the world.
Did you and Jay Versace talk about doing any future music together?
Yeah, that’s the homie. Whenever he got time and he’s not busy doing whatever he’s into, I’m willing to work whenever. I love the music he makes. I love that sound. It meshes so well with what I do. I got respect for what he does and vice-versa. I’m always willing to push the culture forward.
One of your most heartbreaking lyrics was on “Surf & Turf” from The Price of Tea In China when you said, “My son think that I don’t love him, he don’t know his daddy thuggin.” What was going through your mind to write a bar like that?
It’s the truth. My son can’t live without me and I feel the same way about him. We are inseparable, but I can’t take him everywhere and do everything. I can take him to do a lot, but I can’t take him to do everything and it kills him in those moments when I have to leave him. I try to get him to understand, “It’s not your fault, son, but I do have to take care of you. So, daddy does have to work.” Some people don’t view what I do as work. Even with the music, I’m not just talking about hustling. When I’m trying to do the things I need to feed him, it’s killing him inside to be away from me. I’m trying to get him to know, “Your daddy really out here, son. You didn’t grow up how I grew up. Things are better for you. Don’t think I don’t love you. I don’t love anything more than you. Don’t think daddy is trying to run off on you. I’m trying to run up a check.”
Do you have any more projects coming up this year?
Of course. I got this Alchemist s**t I’m about to drop at the top of the year. I’m about to come back and hit them where it hurts. They think that Price of Tea In China was something, I’m about to hit them with something crazy.
How long have you been working on that project?
I’ve been working on the last Alchemist project since The Price of Tea In China because me and Al just work. I fly to Cali, bang out joints. Ever since Boldface, we’ve been working. There are so many joints in the stash. That’s how he was able to give y’all a deluxe with those new songs. We know \we had to cook up a new plate because we saw the traction The Price of Tea In China picked up. With the return, Al wanted to be very careful of the timing, content of the music, and the direction of this particular album because Al is on a mission to f**k the game up. He’s so focused, man. I’ve never seen a man so focused.
What is it like in the studio with Alc?
What is it like making music with the Alchemist? It’s crazy, bro. It’s like a dream come true. I listened to so many Mobb Deep records growing up, bro. It amazes me to work with somebody who was my favorite ghost producer of all time. I didn’t know what he looked like or where he’s from. Now, that’s my brother.
What’s the quickest you two have put songs together?
Maybe an hour. He’s making the beat, I hear the beat, I’m writing the raps. The beat got me so inspired, I already ran through the rap and I’m ready to go in the booth within 20 or 30 minutes, and record the song in about 20 minutes.
How has the pandemic affected your recording?
It has affected me recording. I got about six features backed up that I need to do, no bulls**t. But, we going to get it done and find ways around it.