Bite-sized Album Review #18: Boldy James and The Alchemist’s ‘The Price of Tea in China’

I was listening to JMSN’s Blue album (2014) yesterday, which led me to re-listen through the majority of his pre-2014 discography. He has a song called “Girl (I Used to Know)” with Boldy James (from Priscilla (2012)), and that reminded me that I wanted to check out Boldy’s project with the Alchemist, after seeing a bunch of people hype it up over the past couple of weeks.

Turns out it was overhyped lol. The Price of Tea in China (2020) is not a bad project, but it feels like the type of rap that white hip hop heads would pay $200 for after missing their opportunity to buy it at $35, so they can brag (to each other and the internet) about their collection of underground records. Very similar to how Westside Gunn’s Pray for Paris (2020) felt. Something that also doesn’t really help is that projects like The Price of Tea in China, Benny the Butcher’s The Plugs I Met (2019), and Pray for Paris have the same features on them. There is always some combination Freddie Gibbs, Benny, Conway the Machine, Westside Gunn, and Boldy James on each project; so, really, if you listen to one of their projects, you can get the gist of what you’re gonna hear on the other projects.

Thematic Cohesion

Boldy James is a talented rapper and a good storyteller, so I didn’t expect there to be any problems with theme. I went in expecting drug/street talk, and got exactly that. Which is fine.

Sonic Cohesion

Like I mentioned before, TPOTIC follows a similar sonic structure to Pray for Paris and The Plugs I Met, meaning that the production is centered around heavy piano loops and an overwhelming sense of doom. It feels very much like your standing in the middle of a field and a thunderstorm is rolling in, and you have nowhere to seek shelter. It’s just very…present and “in your face” production. Sometimes it feels like Boldy is competing with how heavy the Alchemist’s production is, so it’s kind of hard to hear what he’s saying. The features were nice – I enjoyed Vince Staples on “Surf & Turf.”

Vibe Check

It’s very…New Jack City (1991) meets the Godfather (1972).

Replay Value

LOL I only saved “Surf & Turf” – to my Spotify library. I’m just…not interested in listening to this project again. It was fine, but it didn’t give me anything ~new~. That’s kind of the difficult thing with seeing people rave about a project so much; I feel like I’m missing something – but I went back and listened to a few of the songs again, and still feel relatively underwhelmed the second time around.

3 songs i dig…

“Surf & Turf” “…” and “¯\_(ツ)_/¯”

Featured Image Credit: https://www.brooklynvegan.com/boldy-james-burna-boy-young-jesus-primitive-man-arlo-mckinley-ho99o9-reviews/


Overall Album Rating


(listen to The Price of Tea in China on spotify, by clicking on the image below)

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