B.o.B. Presents: The Adventure of Bobby Ray currently sits atop the Billboard 200. It debuted at number one this week, and its no coincidence. This is as solid a debut as an artist of Bobby Ray Simmons’ (B.o.B.) status and talent could hope for, as he’s a tough artist to categorize. He can spit rhymes with the best of his contemporaries, but hes also got quite the voice to buoy his rap talent, something that not a lot of rappers come by so organically (see Kanyes 808s & Heartbreak). This album has been a long time in the works, but the reason for the delay is now apparent: Bobby Ray was aiming for perfection.
In December of 2008, XXL Magazine put him up next to Kid Cudi, Wale, Asher Roth, and Charles Hamilton as the Hip-Hop Class of 09. Of those five artists, he was the last to release a debut, and the wait seems to have paid off. His album charted higher than any of the others, and he is receiving more consistent praise from the critics. Instead of dropping an album right away, B.o.B. spent this past year on the road putting in valuable time that would ultimately lead to a very impressive debut. He worked on his performance, polished his persona, and met all the right people.
This album boasts a star-studded guest list which includes the likes of Lupe Fiasco, T.I., Rivers Cuomo, Hayley Williams of Paramore (twice), and last, but certainly not least, Mr. Marshall Eminem Mathers himself, who throws down the most powerful verse on the entire album. So if nothing else, the waiting game at least let Bobby Ray meet some cool people to guest on his album. But truly, guests aside, the performance by B.o.B. is solid and sleek as finished marble. This album is essentially everything we hoped Kid Cudis Man on the Moon would be, but wasnt.
The subject matter is nearly identical to Man on the Moon; the re-told teenage angst, the rise to stardom, and the pressures of being an up-and-coming rapper, just told more eloquently, and with more gusto and introspection. Kid Cudis album told us that he was a bit of a social outcast who was good at art in high school and that he never fit in but now that art was getting him places, in about as many words. There was no use of metaphor or poetry; he sort of just told things to his listeners, and it was a major letdown in a lot of ways. Adventures tells a similar story, but does so artistically and with class.
The album opens with the apt lyrics of Dont Let Me Fall which say What goes up, must come down, but dont let me fall, indicating that B.o.B. is finally here, making his way up the rise, and hes pleading to the fans to not let him down now. Immediately following this track is that song youve heard every 12 minutes on your local top 20 radio station, Nothin on You. All radio airplay aside, this is a solid track, with quick, witty raps, and a super catchy chorus compliments of Bruno Mars.
But dont perceive that songs success to mean that this is an album with only one single. Adventures of Bobby Ray spits out hit after hit. His collaboration with Hayley Williams, Airplanes, will have no problem winning a wide fan base. An airtight chorus from Williams (and this is coming from an avid Paramore anti-fan) combined with B.o.B.s story of his struggle to stardom, told with whip smart raps, is a formula for success. This chorus is revisited for Airplanes Pt. 2 with new verses by B.o.B. and a tear-jerking, 8 Mile-era Eminem verse that outlines what Ems life may have been like if he hadnt chased his dream so hard. As I mentioned earlier, with no disrespect to Bobby Ray, Eminem delivers the most powerful verse on the album, hands down. It’s one of the most raw, angry verses weve heard from Eminem in a long time, and it all fits so well with Williams chorus and B.o.B.s accompanying verses.
Another song that will no doubt make your regular rotation is The Kids, in which B.o.B. steals the bass line and the line The kids dont stand a chance from Vampire Weekends track from their debut by the same name. Another ear-pleaser is his track with T.I., Bet I. Filled to the brim with a heavy beat and more thematic material than the rest of the album, this one would fit on any regular T.I. album. Track “Magic”, with Weez-wizard Rivers Cuomo, will bring a smile to your face. He gives B.o.B. a catchy, relevant chorus to work with, and B.o.B. goes to town with it.
These tricks that I’ll attempt will blow your mind
Pick a verse, any verse, I’ll hypnotize you with every line
I’ll need a volunteer, how about you, with the eyes?
Come on down to the front, and stand right here and don’t be shy
I’ll have you time-travelin’, have your mind babblin’
People try and inherit the skill so they askin’ me
Even David Blaine had to go and take some classes, and
I see Mindfreak like, “What’s up man, what’s happenin’?”
So come one, come all, and see the show tonight
The appearances by majorly established artists and the amount of airplay B.o.B.s received already may lead you to believe that this is just one more in a long line of pop records claiming to be rap, but believe me folks, this is as rap as rap comes. An interesting blend of collaborators and some solid verses thrown down by B.o.B. makes for one very listenable album. The genre’s finest work this year… at least so far. No, seriously.