(Note: I’m talking about B.o.B from a pop context in this post because he strikes me as much more of a pop artist than a rapper or hip hop artist. Also, when I talk about pop, it’s meant as more a reference to the overall sound, as opposed to focus on lyricism or flow when talking about rap and hip hop.)
B.o.B is the stage name of Altlanta rapper Bobby Ray.
What follows is a brief write-up of B.o.B from his two mixtapes to his full-blown debut. Essentially a summary of him as an artist, the writeup of his debut is essentially a review, though it comes from particular perspective that is more fleshed out with context, the purpose of the summary.
Click the jump to read the full review and writeup.
I was originally introduced to him through his mixtape B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray which was divided between B.o.B, his rapping moniker and Bobby Ray, a more singing/producing oriented moniker. I thought the Bobby Ray half was the much more interesting, with songs like “No Man’s Land,” which was based around an acoustic guitar similarly to Kid Cudi’s “Up Up & Away.” The “Bobby Ray” side of that mixtape was the strongest indicator of B.o.B’s capability as a pop artist, and given how much stronger it was than the rap-focused “B.o.B” side, I’m inclined to think of him more as a pop artist than a hip hop artist. He might even prove to be a solid producer.
Bobby Ray | No Man’s Land (off B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray) [download] (rightclick>saveas…)
His next mixtape, May 25th, didn’t feature a single track produced by the Bobby Ray moniker–instead the 6 songs he produced were under the B.o.B name–and had a much more different feel than B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray. Seemingly done away with the slightly confusing Bobby Ray/B.o.B duality, the mixtape nonetheless had some of the strong indicators of a solid pop artist that B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray had, though they weren’t expounded upon or explored much more in-depth. Songs like “The Rain” and “Don’t Feel So Good,” held that pop sensibility and it seemed that B.o.B was developing his own sound (both were also produced by him). It’s also worth noting that all of the songs I’ve talked about are self-depreciating, which seems to have become one of his defining characteristics. It’s hard to deny the influence that Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak has had on modern mainstream, and it’s manifest in these sort of emo-esque songs.
B.o.B | The Rain (off May 25th) [download] (rightclick>saveas…)
B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray is the debut album of B.o.B, which debuted last week and has hit number 1 on the Billboard charts driven mainly by the single “Nothin’ on You,” itself hitting number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. A strong debut to be sure, but it’s hard to even approach this album from a hip-hop perspective. Full of hooks, B.o.B singing, and weird guest spots, it even has a song that rips a chorus directly from Vampire Weekend’s debut. B.o.B’s actual rapping seems to be thrown to the wayside entirely, layered deeply underneath everything else and not that special in and of itself.
While there are some heavyweights from the rap world featured, namely Eminem, T.I. and Lupe Fiasco, it’s the weirder guest spots that seem to stand out, if only because of how strange they seem. What I’m talking about is the fact that Paramore’s Hayley Williams and Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo show up on “Airplanes” and “Magic” respectively. These guest spots don’t really add anything, and really could have been done by anyone. “Airplanes” is the second single and hopefully won’t get too overplayed, though it’s looking that. The rappers’ verses all trump B.o.B’s and are generally average fanfare. No one brings it too hard. In fact, the only guest spot I really liked was that of Bruno Mars on “Nothin’ on You,” which is a solid pop song, if forgettable like the rest of the album.
The standout song and the one that most calls back to the era of B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray is “Lovelier Than You.” Driven by an acoustic guitar and a simple bongo beat, the light love song doesn’t get too full of itself by trying to do too much. Curiously, though the part of the song I like least is the song where B.o.B actually raps, dropping the acoustic strumming and adopting some pretty dull rhymes. Given how little his rapping gets attention on the album, though, it’s nice to hear a song that actually tries to focus on him a little bit and not a lame hook or guest spot.
The most telling fact about The Adventures of Bobby Ray, though, is its last song. A redux of “Airplanes” with Eminem. To say it’s redundant may seem silly, but it really is. Simply put, we didn’t need two versions of “Airplane.” What seals its fates (and the album’s) is the fact that B.o.B, supposedly the artist behind it all, doesn’t show up for the last 2 minutes and is slaughtered by Eminem on the last verse. It’s expected that such a legendary rapper would trump B.o.B on his debut, but it’s an almost embarrassing way to end it, with Em on the last verse and Hayley Williams on the fadeout.
Even from a pop standpoint, that’s pretty weak, B.o.B.
B.o.B | Lovelier Than You (off The Adventures of Bobby Ray) [download] (rightclick>saveas…)
B.o.B | The Kids (feat. Janelle Monae) (off The Adventures of Bobby Ray) [download] (rightclick>saveas…)
B.o.B | Airplane, Part II (feat. Eminem and Hayley Williams) (off The Adventures of Bobby Ray) [download] (rightclick>saveas…)