All the BEautiful Girls STAND UP for B.o.B…
Make sure you check out our review on B.o.B. Presents The Adventures of Bobby Ray!
Bobby Ray Simmons has had many monickers in his relatively short time on this planet. Known by the names B.o.B or Bobby Ray, the young Mr. Simmons has grinded hard for many years to get to the point he is currently at. On April 27, 2010, he dropped his first album, B.o.B presents The Adventures of Bobby Ray via Rebel Rock/Grand Hustle/Ham Squad/Atlantic — a 12-song collection of “eclectic” (read: alternative) hip-hop songs that may just have enough edge and grit for purists to chew on and enough pop appeal for the masses to appreciate.
The existence and success of Mr. Simmons raises many questions. Will we finally see something we haven’t arguably seen since legends like Run D.M.C and Aerosmith — a credible merge between rap and rock? Even the mediocre success of Lil Wayne‘s, Rebirth shows that this type of appeal can be elusive. Can B.o.B do what Lupe Fiasco couldn’t? Oh sure, Lupe is no slouch and his music and appeal to the masses is far from unsuccessful. But where is Lupe now? How bout Kid Cudi? Is “conscious rap” too much of a niche genre for mass appeal? Can B.o.B’s music be considered conscious?
Let me back up a bit. A few years back, around 2007ish, Atlanta’s legendary primetime DJ on WVEE-FM (V-103), Greg Street, premiered a track from a young(er) B.o.B entitled “Cloud 9.” The track, an ode to puffing the sticky-icky (a long standing tradition in hip-hop), was one of the first times the artist known as B.o.B was played on Atlanta radio. Not yet going by his current “Bobby Ray” moniker, his vocals were unusually melodic and funky and he seemed to possess a musical prowess beyond his years.
I had the good fortune of meeting him personally and naturally he was ecstatic about his level of success at that time. Many, including myself, saw facets of Outkast’s Andre “3000” Benjamin in his style and delivery. What was for certain was that he had a loyal team behind him — TJ Chapman (TJsDJs), Brian Richardson (B-Rich), and Playboy Tre (Simmons thanks all of them in his album liner notes). After countless album delays, pushbacks, and singles that failed to garner major attention (“Haterz Everywhere,” “I’ll Be In The Sky”), B.o.B found commercial success upon the strength of his first Billboard #1 single, “Nothin’ On You,” featuring Bruno Mars on the hook. Releasing a studio album was elementary at that point, and just like that, Bobby Ray’s days as solely a mixtape and underground artist were over.
Bobby Ray’s musicianship is evident all over this release. Achieving “Executive Producer” status on a debut album is no small feat in and of itself, yet he earns this title, producing four tracks and co-producing one. This album will no doubt find it’s way into every dorm room and every college campus. A brillant mix of melody, music, and substantive lyricism. His rap style will appeal to the hip hop head and his musicianship will be appreciated by those who value song structure and melody. Imagination reigns supreme on this album. Standout songs, aside from his current hit On You, include “Bet I,” featuring T.I. and Playboy Tre. This track gives the listener a glimpse of the more gritty B.o.B first introduced to me years earlier. Both he and Playboy hold their own with the King of the South. Another song poised for success features Janelle Monae, called “The Kids.” An ode to our future leaders, Bobby Ray and Monae ask serious questions about our priorities and choices that affect our children.
Don’t for a second think the young man from Decatur, Georgia can’t hold his own on a track. While B.o.B is certainly the centerpiece of this album (cue up track #6, “Ghost In The Machine,” or #9, “Fame.”), his song selection shows a methodology with his features which include Lupe Fiasco (“Past My Shades”) and Ricco Barrino (“5th Dimension”). “Airplanes, Part II” featuring Hayley Williams of Paramore and rap legend Eminem is a certain crossover hit.
I personally hope that B.o.B continues to create music left by the void that Andre 3000 leaves artistically with his pseudo-absence from music. Andre 3000 (and Outkast as a whole, shouts out to Big Boi) demonstrated a knack for making pop music that was soulful. That was part entertainment, part good advice. B.o.B is cut from this same cloth. His challenge appears to be the same: create commercially appealing popular music that does not stray too far from it’s hip hop roots with a message that reaches the masses. The artist with the multiple monikers actually has something to say.
And 2010 is shaping up to be the year he gets to open his mouth and speak to the world.
TRACK LISTING (to preview tracks or to purchase, click HERE)
1. Don’t Let Me Fall (Explicit Album Version) 4:35
2. Nothin’ On You [Feat. Bruno Mars] 4:29
3. Past My Shades [Feat. Lupe Fiasco] 3:33
4. Airplanes [Feat. Hayley Williams Of Paramore] (Explicit Album Version) 3:01
5. Bet I [Feat. T.I. & Playboy Tre] (Explicit Album Version) 4:17
6. Ghost In The Machine 4:53
7. The Kids [Feat. Janelle Monáe] 3:26
8. Magic [Feat. Rivers Cuomo] 3:16
9. Fame (Explicit Album Version) 3:41
10. Lovelier Than You 4:03
11. 5th Dimension [Feat Ricco Barrino] 3:23
12. Airplanes, Part II [Feat Eminem & Hayley Williams Of Paramore] (Explicit Album Version)