Love him or hate him, now would be a good time to congratulate B.o.B. Since being drafted directly out of high school to Atlantic Records (via Jim Jonsin's Rebel Rock imprint) in 2006, he's been in rap limbo -- struggling to achieve commercial success while still maintaining some semblance of what he considers to be a left-of-the-dial approach to songwriting. Flash-forward to 2010 and we find the 21-year-old Bobby Ray Simmons in a much different scenario. Driven by the success of hit single "Nothin' on You" featuring Bruno Mars, his first full-length album The Adventures of Bobby Ray debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and, other than a scathing critique from Pitchfork Media, has been getting nothing but love.
Given the current creativity-barren landscape of mainstream rap, it's easy to fall into a pattern of overpraising anything coloring even slightly outside the lines. But as someone who occasionally masquerades as a Top 40 DJ, even I have to admit B.o.B is responsible for some of the least cringe-worthy spins in the club circuit's required listening. It's fair that anybody naming themselves after an OutKast song should be held to a slightly higher standard, and in that regard, Bobby Ray still has his work cut out for him. Yes, he killed it on Cali Swag's "Teach Me How to Dougie" remix, but why? And props on choosing a Rivers Cuomo album feature over a Weezy or Drake hook, but different doesn't always equal better. Truthfully, though, at this point, he's laid down enough quality post-OutKast-style production (check "I'll Be in the Sky") and inspiring lyricism (check "Generation Lost") to not have to apologize for anything.
Prententious literary opinions aside, B.o.B's widespread appeal and artistic range are what's undeniable, and any rapper who can boast playing the French horn (on top of guitar, piano, and trumpet) deserves your attention. You can catch this genre-melding, ATLien on his "SHOOTiN for Stars Tour" along with Yelawolf and Playboy Tre August 24 at Revolution Live and decide for yourself.