Grand Quarters, the first EP from Detroit rapper Boldy James, was originally slated to be released last October, and by the time that was announced, three of its six songs were already out. In fewer words: It took Boldy about six months to finish up three songs. That kind of inefficiency might be acceptable or even expected from some artists, but not from a rapper (Gucci Mane, on the other hand, has dropped four mixtapes so far this year alone). But as it turns out, Grand Quarters justifies the delay in that it shows Boldy must have been taking his time because he was working to expand his previously limited (or undersold) palette. It’s a success that should only add to fans’ anticipation of his upcoming, Alchemist-produced debut album.
The first four songs, though, feature Boldy doing what he’s been doing to sell himself as one of the more exciting rappers to emerge from the Midwest in the past two or three years. “One of One”, “For the Birds”, “JIMBO”, and “Gettin’ Flicked” (the last three of which were released before the rest of Grand Quarters) are squirming, minimal productions that don’t do much to dictate the way Boldy raps over them. Which is a serious plus, because Boldy, unlike so many other street-rappers, has a twisty, slurred flow that allows the words “good,” “subs,” and “bud” to come off as perfect rhymes (during “Birds”). It’s this pliability that keeps these songs interesting even when his best bars — “Red Bull and Grey Goose mixed with champagne / What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” — aren’t going down as line-of-the-year contenders (no matter the year we first heard them).
The synth-soaked closing tracks, “Come Here” and “I Can Pull It Off”, offer a total sea change in mood. The latter is an Auto-Tuned thing that may or may not be set in strip club, and while it’s virtually the polar opposite of each of the previous tracks, it works as well as any of them thanks to a chant-worthy hook and a beat that sounds way more expensive than anything Boldy’s handled before. I’m not sure I’d like to hear an entire album or mixtape of tracks like it — Boldy sounds a little restricted on it, all told — but it’s assuring to know he has this kind of range. So even though Alc, a relatively modest producer, might not test him this much on the album, we now know Boldy shouldn’t have a problem killing whatever beats he does get for the LP.
Essential Tracks: “For the Birds”, “JIMBO”, and “Come Here”